CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Displayed amid the books and other resource materials in the library at Penn State Lehigh Valley is “The Greek Horse,” a print by artist Francoise Gilot. The print has been part of PSU-LV’s collection since the mid-1980s. Gilot, who recently died at the age of 101, was an accomplished painter, although better known as the mistress of renowned artist Pablo Picasso.
“The Greek Horse” is one of five Gilot prints donated to PSU-LV by philanthropists Philip and Muriel Berman, former owners of Hess’s Department Store. Besides Gilot’s works, the Bermans donated paintings by Picasso and Jean Cocteau, as well as prints by Salvador Dali.
These pieces are not the only works adorning the walls and shelves across campus. Ann Lalik, arts coordinator and director of the Ronald K. DeLong Gallery at PSU-LV, estimates the campus is home to nearly 200 pieces of art, earning PSU-LV the nickname of “The Art Campus.”
“When visitors from other campuses come here, people are kind of amazed at all the art we have displayed,” Lalik said. “I think it’s interesting. I love that we have art in our hallways, and we were able to find homes for some large pieces. We even started a lending program where people can ‘borrow’ art for their offices.”
Prior to Lalik’s hiring in 2009, PSU-LV had no art coordinator; Judy Mishriki, librarian at the time, oversaw the art acquisitions. Lalik recalled, “When I came to campus, Judy handed the files over to me and I started keeping track of the collection. Some patrons who live in the area know me and saw this campus as a good home for pieces they no longer had room for, so they started to ask, ‘Can we donate art?’”
Artwork of various sizes and styles has been donated by area philanthropists, Penn State alumni, and friends of the campus. Lehigh Valley attorney and Penn State alum Martin Cohen has been another notable donor over the years.
“He wanted to benefit Penn State and is an avid art collector," said Lalik. "Back in 2009 when I came to campus, he started donating some significant pieces. He owns a lot of large works and was willing to donate them rather than sell them.”
She mentioned a large piece by John Clem Clark on the second floor as one of Cohen’s most valuable contributions, as well as a collection of works by Easton artist Paul Harryn.
“When the campus moved here from Fogelsville in 2009, there was a nice collection of art the previous school had left behind, so we inherited that,” Lalik said. “While identifying it, we found some pretty interesting and prominent artists in there as well.”
Ronald K. DeLong, the donor for whom the campus gallery is named, has also contributed several pieces over the years, as has Michael Krajsa, retired PSU-LV faculty member and major donor, who most recently gave the campus artifacts he collected on his travels to Peru.
The campus’ art collection fosters engagement in that it aligns with PSU-LV’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Art is one way to start conversations, share experiences and find commonalities, said Lalik. Students have been encouraged to make their own contributions to the campus collection over the years.
“We purchased a print by an artist named Bart Cooper. We encouraged students who were interested in his work to choose the print that we ended up purchasing,” Lalik said. “When artist Linda Stein offered to donate two of her prints to our collection, we also asked the students to vote on the one they favored, and we chose the two that received the most votes.”
Through art we can celebrate diversity on the campus by presenting a variety of cultures and artistic styles. When you see yourself in a work of art or learn about others through art, you feel more connected. We’ve made a conscious effort to acquire art that shows we value all people.
—Ann Lalik , arts coordinator and director of the Ronald K. DeLong Gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley
As arts coordinator, it falls to Lalik to care for and maintain the campus’ collection. One of her goals this year is to work with a student intern on converting her database of artwork to a website so even more folks can learn about PSU-LV’s collection. Lalik said art is one way to demonstrate PSU-LV’s mission.
“Through art we can celebrate diversity on the campus by presenting a variety of cultures and artistic styles. When you see yourself in a work of art or learn about others through art, you feel more connected. We’ve made a conscious effort to acquire art that shows we value all people. This is something the PSU-LV’s leadership has been intentional about, and leverages to support DEI attitudes,” she said.
“Everyone has a different aesthetic preference, and we are all unique in what we respond to, so the fact that we have a collection that includes a variety of styles such as realism, abstractions, and pop art as well as culturally diverse expressions, it helps us connect in different ways," added Lalik. "I think that makes this campus a very special place.”