The cars were cleared out of Hillman Library’s parking spaces last Friday. in their place were students painting neurotransmitters on Christmas cards, presenting research opportunities in chalk drawings, scavenging for rare artifacts and forming melodic lines of prose on cardboard boxes.
Pitt’s Center for Creativity and Department of Parking, Transportation and Services co-sponsored PARK(ing) Day last Friday, an event where 19 student groups and University offices transformed the parking spaces outside Hillman Library into temporary exhibits. The event was the kickoff for the so-called “Year of Creativity,” the sixth incarnation of Pitt’s “Year of” series of themed academic years.
Each parking space was empty when the groups arrived, meaning the limits of the displays were up to the imagination of their creators. One of these displays, constructed by Pitt’s Makerspace, an engineering club, featured multiple weight-bearing chairs, tables and even a prototype television, all made completely of recycled cardboard.
Audrey Chester, a senior mechanical engineering major, said the Makerspace’s display was a combination of creativity and sustainability.
“Creativity and the makerspace mission is where the theoretical class content meets the real-life fun part of engineering,” Chester said. “What inspired our exhibit was the theme of PARK(ing) Day, which is sustainability and what can you do with urban spaces. We tried to marry that with what we do in the makerspace with recycling.”
Maya Roman, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, who was part of the Makerspace display, said she was pleased with the idea of the Year of Creativity.
“It’s a really fun topic that’s easy for everyone to take a part of,” Roman said. “Sometimes I think more technical majors, like engineering, forget about the value of creativity, so this is a good reminder.”
Provost Ann Cudd said an important part of creativity is that it crosses all disciplines.
“Creativity is a force that unites the University’s intellectual and artistic endeavors,” Cudd said. “From neuroscience to sculpture. From legal scholarship to computer science. From music to pharmacogenomics.”
The Office of University Communications’ parking space was a more traditional showcase of creativity — whiteboards with lines of lyrical prose, magnets with individual words arranged into comforting haikus and a soapbox, in case anyone felt the need to release their inner poet. Susan Wiedel, the associate editor of Pitt Magazine, said this space was created to allow for passersby to express themselves.
“We wanted to represent and give people a chance to represent themselves,” Wiedel said. “Poetry can be a succinct yet very meaningful way of doing that.”
A few spaces away was a bit more nontraditional way of demonstrating creativity — Plant to Plate, a club that grows produce on Oakland Avenue for community members and the Pitt Pantry. The club’s space allowed participants to make parcels of seeds that would bloom into flowers in spring.
Nolan Naik, a senior mathematics major, said gardening and food sustainability are important forms of creativity.
“I think it’s really important to try to make — not just Pitt, but every part of your life — a little more sustainable, and there are creative ways to do that,” Naik said. “With gardening, there’s a lot of freedom in what you plant and how you organize the plots.”
At the exhibit from the Center for Biologic Imaging, students were encouraged to draw parts of science that spark their creativity the most on mini flags, whether it’s an atom, neurotransmitter or cell. Donna Stolz, an associate professor of cell biology, said the misconception that science doesn’t involve creativity is false.
“Science is all about creativity,” Stolz said. “You have to make up your own hypothesis and determine how you’re going to do it.”
As PARK(ing) Day drew to a close, Cudd spoke about her excitement for this year’s theme and how the Friday event fit into the year.
“A little inspiration, many doses of imagination and people joining together have the power to reinvent the humble parking spaces into something that becomes a gathering point for social and artistic interaction,” Cudd said. “This is the perfect time to kick off the Year of Creativity.”