Arts and Entertainment

Gift supports visual design partnership in Pattee Library Collaboration Commons

Penn State graphic design students Makenna Seidel and Peyton Harris observe as a seated interview subject completes responses to their questionnaire. Behind them, Arts and Architecture Librarian Henry Pisciotta views content on an eight-panel digital screen. Peer subjects’ responses will inform how design students approach future installations of art and design work on the digital screen and in other areas in Pattee Library’s ground floor Collaboration Commons. Credit: Binky Lush for Penn State University LibrariesAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries’ new Michael and Cynthia Evanisko Collaboration Grant is funding a three-year partnership with the College of Arts and Architecture’s Department of Graphic Design to feature student artwork in a prominent public place. Through art, the Evaniskos hope to inspire reflection and new ways of thinking for Penn State students and the greater library-visiting community.

The goal of the Evanisko Collaboration Grant in the University Libraries is to stimulate the creation and display of imaginative, informative, and engaging works that address important and timely social issues. These works will be installed in Pattee Library’s Collaboration Commons and Central Atrium, which opened in August 2019. The $100,000 grant will fund a series of installations over a three-year period that will help set the stage for the Collaboration Commons to be a hotspot for intellectual stimulation and exploration.

“The Evanisko project’s greatest value is in its multi-dimensional partnerships among faculty, staff and students and across departments to exhibit vibrant student work in a variety of disciplines and visual media,” said Dace Freivalds, interim associate dean for strategic technologies. “Mike and Cynny’s grant provides the University Libraries with an exciting opportunity to elevate students' work, and we are very grateful to them for their support.”

The grant is already at work this spring. Students in a Department of Graphic Design course are undertaking an assessment to conceptualize user experience scenarios and make recommendations for how to best communicate Penn State student research and creative work using the displays. Integral to the grant will be a series of themes to which the students will respond through their artistic and design creations. The theme for the initial installation, “resilience,” was selected by an advisory group to explore the spirit that humankind has had to embrace to persevere during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Cynny and I are enthusiastic supporters of the University Libraries and Penn State,” Mike Evanisko said. “We value the role that the library and the arts play in the life of the University and have been impressed by how the library has evolved over the years. Through this gift, we are pleased to fund a partnership that will help establish the Collaboration Commons as an environment where visitors are motivated to explore, learn and evolve their thinking.” 

The Evaniskos are longtime supporters of the University Libraries and public art at Penn State. They funded the large fiber art “The Dawn of Magic” by Laurie dill-Kocher, a permanent installation that has hung in Pattee Library’s Franklin Atrium since 2002, as well as “Equivalence of Site”, a colorful tile mural in the Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library by InPlainSight Art’s Amy Baur and Brian Boldon. Each of these art installations was the result of juried national competitions managed by the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Mike Evanisko earned an undergraduate degree in labor management relations from the College of the Liberal Arts in 1971 and a master’s degree in public administration in 1973. Though Cynny is a loyal graduate of the University of Denver, she shares Mike’s enthusiasm for Penn State, the University Libraries and the partnership with the Department of Graphic Design.

This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated May 24, 2021