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Artistic expressions animate ASU hallways through ‘Action, Advocacy and Art’ program

Dozens of works inside Downtown Phoenix campus buildings engage viewers


Paintings by artist Chris Vena on display in a hallway at ASU's University Center as part of the Watts College for Public Service and Community Solutions program "Action, Advocacy and Art."

Paintings by artist Chris Vena are displayed in a hallway at ASU's University Center as part of the Watts College for Public Service and Community Solutions program "Action, Advocacy and Art." Photo by Andrea Koesters/ASU

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February 21, 2022

The walls of university buildings have much more hanging from them than whiteboards, fire alarms and portraits of revered professors.

In the case of several structures on Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus, each also doubles as an art gallery of sorts. Art along the hallways at the campus’ University Center (UCENT) represent a variety of styles and messages from two dozen community artists, from Lucretia Torva’s icon-like depictions of women, to protest paintings by Chris Vena, to mixed media by Hector Fernanda, as well as several works by ASU professors emeriti.

The art displays inside UCENT, home of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and nearby buildings connect the general public with the university community through a Watts College program called Action, Advocacy and Art (AAA). Through AAA, UCENT becomes “a hub of conversation, culture and social engagement focused on current issues affecting the university and its surrounding communities,” according to the program website.

The works showcase the talents of artists from both within ASU – including many professors emeriti – and from the surrounding community. Artwork also can be found on select floors of the College of Health Solutions building and the Mercado building, also on the Downtown Phoenix campus, said Andrea Koesters, AAA’s art coordinator.

In all, 83 different artworks by 24 community artists may be viewed throughout the second floor of UCENT. Also currently displayed in its lobby is an exhibition of photographs depicting farming and ranching life in Phoenix’s East Valley taken over many years by Marvin Morrison. Morrison was a prominent member of the family that is the namesake of the Watts-based Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the Morrison Ranch master-planned community in Gilbert, Arizona.

Koesters said AAA began with the art of retired ASU professors in the late 2000s under the late Debra Friedman, then-dean of the formerly named ASU College of Public Programs.

Over the years, the program has expanded to feature dozens of works of art throughout UCENT and the downtown campus. Those created by retired professors, a collaboration between the Watts College and the university’s Emeritus College, have since been joined by expressions of community artists.

The first-floor lobby features rotating exhibits, each on view for up to a year. Koesters said recent themes have included working families, landscape and climate.

Logo, Action Advocacy and Art, Watts College,

This year’s themes are social justice, human rights and community embeddedness, topics designed to spark conversation, Koesters said.

“Through the Action, Advocacy and Art program, the display of artworks in University Center and elsewhere on the Downtown Phoenix campus depict many highly varied expressions from both within ASU and the surrounding community,” said Watts College Dean Cynthia Lietz. “The works provide the viewer with multiple perspectives conveyed in ways beyond words. They can move people to think and, I hope, to act, which is central to the Watts College’s mission to be the solution to what challenges our community and thus create a better society.”

Artists interested in having their works exhibited through AAA may contact Andrea Koesters at akoesters@asu.edu.

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