Gannon University and Erie Art Museum kick off Partnership.

Tom Swick, Feature Editor

Erie, Pa,  January 25th — Gannon University partnered with the Erie Art Museum hosting an event open to Gannon faculty and students. The event was celebrating the partnership between the two. A partnership that allows Gannon Students and Faculty with a University I.D. free access to the museum and discounted prices for the museum’s programs. The event was opened to the Gannon community with select museum galleries as well as some art pieces done by Gannon Students.

The goal of this partnership is to expand student’s education, allowing professors to utilize the museum in their classes; as well as give student’s incentive to broaden their education on their own by visiting and attending programs at the Museum.

To kick off the event there were a series of speeches given by: Dr. Walter Iwanenko (provost and vice president for student experience), Melanie Vadzemnieks (Erie Art Museum Development Director), Mary Carol Gensheimer (Director of Gannon’s Communication and the Arts department), Dr. Lori Lindley (Dean of Gannon’s College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences), and Madison Maurice (Communications Director for 90.5 WERG and Student Assistant for Gannon’s School of Communications and the Arts).

Mary Carol Gensheimer summarized Gannon and the Art Museum’s goal in her speech, “Partnerships between creative entities bring magic. Partnerships bring synergies, Partnerships bring hope. We are celebrating the partnership of two downtown neighbors. Amidst the energies of the downtown Erie renovation, it is good to seek out kindred spirits and partners.”

Over the course of the weekend leading into the event, as well as the day after event; some of the speakers were interviewed. They were asked about the event, the significance of art for students, the process leading up to the event, and their thoughts on the process.

Dr. Walter Iwanenko:

How long has this partnership been in the works?

Gannon and the Museum have been supporters of one another for quite some time. When the idea was brought forward by faculty in the fall semester, the meetings and conversation happened rather quickly to make this all possible to be able to take advantage of as early as this spring semester.

What is the significance of this event for you?

This is an exciting partnership for many reasons. Gannon is located in the heart of downtown Erie and immersed in its surrounding communities, and the Erie Art Museum is a staple of that experience. It offers significant value through cultural enrichment, art education and programming, and provides a site to inspire creative expression and attract engagement to boost our economy. We are proud to contribute to that and provide access to the wonderful art exhibits, events and programs for our students and employees. It is exciting watching Erie grow as a destination to live, learn, work and play.

What are your thoughts about access to art for the students?

The free admission and discounted programming for our Gannon community that this partnership provides speaks to the university’s efforts toward equitable access of resources and experiences, and it also brings our Mission and our purpose to life. It is impacting our classes, too, as courses can now integrate experiences at the Museum at discounted or no cost for the students or faculty, adding even more value to the classroom experience. We are also trying to lay a foundation for good citizenship by being engaged and supporting the arts.

Are there any talks on future partnerships?

There are many downtown and Erie businesses that offer discounts to Gannon and college students. Although there are no additional partnerships like this that we have to share right now, that doesn’t rule out future opportunities. This partnership is a great model for bringing more and similar important resources for personal development and enrichment to our students and employees free-of-charge.

Melanie Vadzemnieks:

How long has this partnership been in the works?

This started because a professor in the Communication Arts department, Dr. Yijing Wang, asked if he could take some of his students to the Erie Art Museum. That began a series of questions that were all met with affirmative “yeses.” Eventually it went to Dr. Iwanenko’s office, and a plan was put into place to create a formal agreement between the Erie Art Museum and Gannon University.

What is the significance of this event for you?

For the Erie Art Museum, partnerships like this are central to our mission of promotion and the advancement of the visual arts, encouraging art in all its forms, fostering lifelong art learning, and building community among artists, art students and the public.

What are your thoughts about access to art for the students?

Museums inspire people and spark conversations and curiosity. The word “museum” has its origins in the Greek language as “mouseion,” which means “seat of the Muses.” As such, a museum became a dedicated place of contemplation. Through various exhibits, classes, and programming, we strive to be a place where people come to learn and to be inspired. We see this partnership as a way for students to enhance the quality education they receive at Gannon.

Are there any talks on future partnerships?

Of course. This is just the beginning of possibilities. We hope this turns into internship possibilities for Gannon students, as well as being another space for learning.

Any last thoughts on the experience, event, and/or partnership?

It has been such a delight to work with people who are passionate about education, recognize the value of the visual arts, and want to encourage multiple possibilities for their students.

Madison Maurice:

How do you think free admission to the Museum will benefit student’s education?

As a student from the School of Communication and the Arts, this admission will allow classes from my program to go beyond the classroom and increase discussion about the visual arts and offerings at the museum. I believe this will also be a benefit for non-communication students by allowing them to spend time enjoying the art and using the museum as a place to relax and decompress between the demands from classes.

What is the significance of art for students?

Art will allow students to appreciate the expression of others and help find their own inner expression. Art can be found in all areas of our lives/ This partnership with the Erie Art Museum will show the different levels and types of art/ expression for all.

How did the opportunity to speak at the event happen?

I have a great relationship with MC, Director of the School of Communication and the Arts. I have been her work study in the department for the last four years. As soon as the semester began, MC approached me and asked if I could speak. It was an opportunity that I could not pass up. I have a lot of appreciation and respect for art as a form of expression and being in a creative field, this partnership can showcase more exposure to art while at Gannon.

Some notable members of Gannon’s faculty were also present at the event. Representing the Campus Ministries office was Emily Muntean, Campus Minister. She was able to answer a few questions on the event and the significance of this opportunity.

What were your thoughts on the Event?

I thought the event was really well attended and a fitting celebration of the new partnership. It was a nice occasion to get students into the space. Hopefully by seeing just how close it is and how much there is to explore, students and employees will find it fun and easy to return regularly.

Are you hoping to utilize the Art Museum for Campus Ministry outings/events, if so, how?

At the event it was mentioned that the event space at the museum could potentially be used for Gannon programs. I am curious to explore the possibility of hosting one of Campus Ministry’s Spirituality on Tap events there at some point. I think that would be a great venue and even include an art theme for that event.

What is the significance of access to Art for students?

From a Campus Ministry perspective, art intrinsically has a spiritual nature to it. Art, whether visual, musical, etc., is a significant aspect of many religions and spiritual practices. Having access to art is another mode through which students can engage and reflect on the world around them on a spiritual level.

Another person interviewed was Dan O’Brien, a senior in the Digital Media Communications Major.

How do you think free admission to the Museum will benefit your education?

I believe the free admission to the art museum will benefit my education by giving me new experiences and opportunities to explore and get inspiration from the exhibits at the museum.

What is the significance of art for students?

Art is significant for students because it is a great way to show your creativity and express yourself in many ways.

What were your favorite exhibits and/or Art Pieces? 

My favorite pieces at the art museum were the crazy abstract metal sculptures that you can walk right up to. There is a story behind them all and I enjoy the final product of all the different elements of the sculpture.

Free admission for Gannon faculty and students will be lasting till the end of the year. There is no update if whether that will be picked up for the next. For more information on the Erie Art Museum check out