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Make Our Differences Our Strengths: Billboard art campaign celebrates diversity in Westmoreland County

The Diversity Billboard Art Project is a public art campaign displaying 10 works of art, curated by The Westmoreland Museum of American Art and informed by an advisory team of community members, on billboards around Westmoreland County. The theme “Make Our Differences Our Strengths” inspires each artist to create an original artwork that visually conveys how diversity and inclusion can make Westmoreland County communities stronger.

The artworks are displayed on specific billboards along Route 22, Route 30, Route 31, Route 51, Route 56, Route 119, Route 217, and I-76. Each remains displayed at each location for 12 to 24 weeks.

“We want as many people as possible to see the exhibit, so following the exhibition at the museum, it will travel to strategically located places throughout the county. Some of the places will be educational institutions, while others may be small, independent art galleries. If our physical options are limited, we will introduce virtual programming,” said Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer, Lead Artist for the project.

Over 50 artists applied with ten selected based on their artistic excellence and compelling proposals: Edith Abeyta, Dorion Barill, Tina Williams Brewer, Alejandro Fiez, Fran Flaherty, Shane Pilster, Amun Ray, Susanne Slavick, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, and Alisha B. Wormsley.

To allow the public to experience all 10 artworks at once and more deeply engage with and reflect upon the
overall message, the Coalition plans to host additional exhibitions featuring the artists’ works in the
Greensburg, Jeannette, Murrysville and New Kensington areas. These exhibitions will be contingent on
pending health and safety protocols.

The traveling exhibition stops at various venues throughout Westmoreland County and will be at Seton Hill University from February 1 to 28, 2021, and at Saint Vincent College from March 18 – May 7, 2021.

Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer curated exhibition at Seton Hill University

Cuellar-Shaffer led virtual conversations with the artists discussing their commissioned original works for the theme. The full conversations are available at https://makeourdifferencesourstrengths.com/blog/.

The Diversity Billboard Art Project was made possible through a grant award of $150,000 from the Heinz Endowments Just Arts program to the Westmoreland Diversity Coalition. The Heinz Endowments Just Arts Program is an initiative that supports artists, organizations and communities who harness the power of
the arts to respond to social issues affecting the Pittsburgh region and beyond.

Founder of the Coalition and board of trustees’ co-chair/secretary Carlotta Paige conceived the project and developed the grant proposal with fellow board of trustees’ member Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer.

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