PITTSBURG — They sat on shelves and were tucked away in boxes, but now — as part of a special exhibit — these pieces of art are going to see the light of day again.

The artwork is part of Pittsburg state University’s Special Collections and University Archives which were preserved during the university’s 115-year history. Each piece was donated by alumni, artists and others over the years.
The pieces of art — oil paintings, lithographs, colored pencil and more — will soon be available for public viewing Aug. 1 with a reception from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Aug. 23, at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.

PSU Student Shawna Witherspoon spent three months digging through boxes and piles of art until she found 44 pieces for the show which is entitled, “The Vault: Unlocked.”

“I think it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to go down into the archives and dig through the stuff people don’t get to see,” she said. “It has been an amazing experience.”

Witherspoon is an art student from Riverton, who is employed as an assistant at the Bicknell Center.

She narrowed down her choices by selecting pieces she found interesting, such as the pair of pastel and textile costume designs for a show in New York.

“It was great to seem them included [in the archives] with their matching frames just hanging out down there,” Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon was not alone in making selections. She relied on the expertise of Dean of the Axe Library and for many years curator of Special Collections and the University Archivist, Randy Roberts and Steve Cox, who previously assumed that role.

She was also assisted by Janette Mauk, senior administrative specialist in Special Collections, Art Department Chair Jamie Oliver, Bicknell Center Event Manager Alex Wiedemann and Bicknell Center Director Joe Firman.
“Everything we do has an academic component and is student-focused,” Firman said in a release. “Every day we take a $33 million building and turn it over to the students.”

This show, Witherspoon said, is a good addition to the previous entries in the series.

Last spring the Bicknell Center put on its first art show, which depicted PSU from the inside entitled “Images by Malcolm Turner.” Turner was the university's former photographer.  The Center’s second show, entitled “Student Perspective” was comprised of artwork by students.

There is more work for Witherspoon to do before the reception. She’s currently corresponding with people who are printing the programs, creating biographies for the artists, making labels and more.

Witherspoon, who has an interest in ceramics, said the gallery has sparked an interest in curating art, as well, and she hopes to do so after she graduates.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.