Shimon Attie came to Bethlehem only knowing about the SteelStacks. After researching and immersing himself in the culture and community, he created artwork capturing Bethlehem’s impact dating back to the city’s founding and following it to the present day.
Attie is the current Horger Artist In Residence for Lehigh’s arts, architecture and design department. His newest piece, “Starstruck: An American Tale,” is on display at the Lehigh University Art Galleries in Zoellner Arts Center until Dec. 3.
According to its website, Lehigh’s Artist in Residence Program brings artists to campus who create public projects that “engage with the university, its students, and surrounding community.”
For the residency, one artist is picked to spend the spring semester brainstorming and creating, and in the following semester, they are able to reveal their work and teach a class of Lehigh students.
Attie is an award-winning artist and is teaching a seminar at Lehigh this semester about art in relation to community and social practice.
Attie said “Starstruck” reflects his thinking about how ideas can live in multiple forms, as long as they exist effectively in each. He said it emphasizes that his work doesn’t always answer questions, but provokes them.
“Life is too short to make art just about art,” Attie said. “I feel an urgency around art having a connection to real lived and felt lives and making a difference.”
Lehigh President Joseph Helble said visitors who come to Lehigh through programs like the Artist in Residence program are beneficial to the university.
“(Visitors) expand our perspectives and push us to see ourselves and to interrogate ourselves in new ways,” Helble said. “Shimon Attie’s work expands our thinking about community and how it shapes who we are.”
Attie said he is thankful for the experience he has had working with Lehigh and is excited to continue teaching his seminar this semester.
“I’ve worked with a lot of institutions all over the world, and at Lehigh, I have found an eagerness to facilitate things happening by being open to trying new things, taking risks and the use of experimentation,” Attie said. “These are all the ingredients that are necessary typically to make a strong work of art.”
Attie said being in Bethlehem allowed him to explore the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities.
Attie said having an outsider perspective when coming to a new area and creating art helps capture the overall idea and concept of the community. He said having this lens helps him work with a bird’s eye view.
Giovanni Procaccini, ‘25, said he is grateful for the effort Lehigh puts into bringing in experts from different backgrounds and disciplines. Viewing Attie’s artwork allowed him to see a different type of art for the first time.
“(The piece) was simple yet complex,” Procaccini said. “I felt like I had to watch it again to fully understand his entire message.”
Helble said Attie has his own special characteristics that he brings to Lehigh.
“He dares us to ask about the meaning of space and place and about its intersectionality,” Helble said. “It asks us to consider not only how people can transform a place but how a place can transform a people.”
Attie said he hopes he can continue to work in a space where the people around him are moved and experience things differently.