University Art Gallery room with paintings and sculptures on display
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Pitt recognizes community members creating a more just, equitable and inclusive University

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Community Impact
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The University of Pittsburgh this week recognized the University Art Gallery and Gina A. Garcia for creating a more just, equitable and inclusive community.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher presented the University Prize for Strategic, Inclusive and Diverse Excellence (UPSIDE) during a virtual awards ceremony on Tuesday and praised gallery Director and Curator Sylvia Rhor Samaniego “for bringing a deep, personal commitment to inclusive programming, management and curation to her work.”

“That commitment has really shined through in recent years through dynamic, evocative programming like the Black Lives in Focus initiative and the renowned Women of Visions exhibition,” he continued. “In that time, a much wider audience in our community has been exposed to the gallery’s work. And the gallery has expanded its reach as a model of institutional equity and justice engagement.”

UPSIDE is presented to an outstanding University of Pittsburgh school, division, department or office making a significant contribution to fostering equity, diversity and inclusion and acknowledges those seeking to increase access to and full participation in all aspects of the University by traditionally underrepresented groups. The amount of the award this year was $10,000.

UAG is a major repository of artwork in the heart of the Pittsburgh campus featuring more than 3,000 pieces of art from around the world. Once a haven for an exclusive segment of the art community, the gallery has transformed into a laboratory of learning and a sanctuary where community and campus can come together for a common purpose. This teaching and learning museum connects its art with University curriculum and engages the Pitt community in a thoughtful manner.

“Building this new vision for the UAG takes people, and the new mission of the UAG is brought together with collaboration and partnership, both on campus and off campus,” said Samaniego, also a senior lecturer in the Department of History of Art and Architecture in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

Also during the virtual ceremony, Garcia, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations and Policy, received the Creating a Just Community Award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize and recognizes the outstanding efforts of a Pitt employee in creating a more just, equitable and inclusive community.

Lori Delale-O'Connor, assistant professor of education, introduced Garcia.

“All of her work, her service, her scholarship, her teaching, her mentoring of both students and junior faculty (myself included) is centered in justice and the creation of not only a just Pitt, but also just communities of higher education across the United States,” she said.

Garcia said she created a community of writing, research and healing for her doctoral students when neither she nor they felt like they had a place at Pitt, "the whitest space I had ever experienced."

Garcia also became an advisor to the Latinx Student Association (LSA), where undergraduate students were also feeling invisible and needed what Garcia had found with her graduate students: community. This mentorship inspired Garcia to do more to elevate the Hispanic and Latinx experience at Pitt. LSA, with Garcia’s guidance, helped to launch Pitt’s Hispanic Heritage Month programming, which focuses on multiple dimensions of equity and justice for minoritized communities.

Garcia continues to raise her voice and make sure that she, as well as all Latinx members of the Pitt community, are heard and seen. She is an advocate, an activist and a scholar, who is doing her part in creating a more just community.

The annual awards are sponsored by the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and this year’s presentation can be watched on YouTube.