Change Makers Main

"Portrait of Yukio Mishima with Katana," 1970, Elliot E. Erwitt. This photo is among the artworks to be displayed as part of Changemakers!, an exhibition coming this fall from Lehigh University Art Galleries.

Change Makers! Exhibition to Highlight Inspiring Community Members Who See Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways

Lehigh University Art Galleries’ upcoming exhibition to explore change and what it means for the circulation of ideas, evolving forces of labor and industry, advocacy through protest, fame and more.

Story by

Christina Tatu

From advances in technology that are regularly touted in the news, to the upcoming presidential election and local community activism, if anything is certain, it’s that change is all around—influencing work, lives and art.

It was this ebb and flow that inspired Lehigh University Art Galleries’ (LUAG) latest exhibition, “Change Makers!” on display from Sept. 3 through May 23, 2025 across campus.

“We thought about this broad topic of change and how that manifests in different ways,” said LUAG Director William Crow, professor of practice in art, architecture and design. “We thought, ‘Could change be a lens through which we really look at works of art and start conversations with other people about how change occurs? What do we do, or can we do, to create positive change in our local community or in the world?’”

The exhibition will be composed primarily of prints and photographs, from historical photos that show people making change, whether through political action, community organizing or teaching, to artwork that pushes the boundary of tradition and calls for change in media or subject matter.

Selected works will also be accompanied by recorded interviews with more than two dozen local changemakers in the Lehigh Valley, gathered by Lehigh students. The interviews reveal insights, strategies and ambitions for positive change in the community. Local change makers shared their approaches to building community coalitions, tips for fostering authentic dialogue and how the arts serve as inspiration to all for innovation and problem solving.

The exhibition will be shown in the Alumni Memorial Gallery, Fairchild Martindale Study Gallery, Siegel Gallery, Dubois Gallery, The Gallery at Rauch Business Center and the South Bethlehem Greenway.

“I think we are all trying to navigate a new world after a global pandemic,” Crow said. “We are in a moment where you have a lot of upheaval and unrest, not only on college campuses, but nationally and globally. I think a lot of people are questioning where we are collectively headed and how we can make changes so that we have something more positive on the horizon for all of us.”

The exhibition also presents the idea of artists as the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

“Sometimes change comes about through very overt actions in visible community leaders—our mayor, our president, our city council. But, Crow said, “Artists, whether they’re visual artists, writers, performers, they are influencing us in many ways, and sometimes even in ways that we don’t realize until many months or even years after engaging with their artworks.”

LUAG tries to plan exhibitions that have ties to current issues, Crow said. For the current show, gallery leaders knew they wanted to have Lehigh students, faculty and staff as well as local community members involved.

Change makers include local political leaders and business owners, educators and artists. Those interviewed include Heather Rodale ’74 ’76G ’05P, president and founder of Healing Through the Arts in Allentown, which hosts workshops and events supporting the connection of art to healing and quality of life; Rosa Carides-Hof, community school coordinator for Donegan Elementary School in Bethlehem, and Wifredo Soto, owner of The Fade and Shave Barbershop on East Fourth Street in Bethlehem.

Lehigh students who are part of the museum studies minor program and those enrolled in certain undergraduate art classes conducted the interviews. It was a way for students to connect to people beyond the boundary of campus. In addition, the poster for the exhibition was designed with the input of graphic design students from Assistant Professor of Design Maurizo Masi’s class.

Collett Akins ’27 was among the students who conducted an interview for the exhibition. Akins, who is majoring in both material science and engineering, and art history, was given an opportunity to conduct the interview as part of her Museum Education and Interpretation class with Crow.

She interviewed Ian Panyko, program director at Resources for Human Development, a national human services nonprofit. He is also director of The Lodge, which provides supported housing, educational and recreational programs and vocational opportunities for adults with mental illness.

“Being a change maker is more than simply believing in a cause, but about educating yourself and then using that knowledge to inform others and shape efforts to reorganize the systems in which inequalities exist,” Akins said. “As Ian Panyko really emphasized in our interview, it ultimately comes down to putting yourself out there to find the opportunities and avenues that can be used to create change.”

Akins hopes those who view the exhibition walk away with the hope that change is possible and that they are inspired to be the change they want to see in their daily lives.

Students will continue to conduct interviews throughout the year, so new change makers will be engaged throughout the run of the exhibition, Crow said. Some students will also be trained as museum guides and lead tours of the exhibition.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Related Stories

Bodies of Knowledge

Exhibition Explores Themes Related to Human Body

Bodies of Knowledge explores themes related to the body, such as movement, sensation, decoration, ritual and costume.

Students in New York for LUAG course

The Art of Curating

Lehigh students learn the behind-the-scenes business of museums and galleries.

Handheld prayer wheel.

Traveling Exhibition Introduces Lehigh Community to Himalayan Artworks

Latest LUAG exhibition will feature Himalayan art, which includes works from the Tibetan Plateau, Nepal, Kashmir, Bhutan and areas of northern India and Pakistan.