SRU President’s House decorated with student art and other University artifacts


President with the student

From left, Slippery Rock University president Karen Riley with SRU student Samantha Dennerlein in front of Dennerlein’s painting that she made as the first recipient of the President’s Student Art Award in Residence. Each semester, an SRU students’ artwork will be displayed in the foyer of the President’s House.

Oct. 4, 2023

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — When Slippery Rock University President Karen Riley moved into her residence on campus earlier this year, she needed help decorating. With an art gallery across the street from the President's House, Riley didn't have to look too far for inspiration. But her goal wasn't about filling an empty space on the wall -- she wanted to represent the University.

"I want the President's House to feel more like it's part of the University," Riley said. "The first floor is for entertaining guests, and I want people who visit to see all that is good about SRU. One way to do that is to showcase our students' work."

Riley contacted Theresa Antonellis, instructor of art and director of SRU's Martha Gault Art Gallery, located in the Maltby Center. Antonellis and her colleagues in the Art Department worked with Riley to create the SRU President's Student Art Award in Residence, where Art Department faculty nominate an SRU student whose artwork will be displayed in the President's House each semester.

The first recipient of the award is Samantha Dennerlein, a senior dual art and modern languages and cultures major from Butler. The art faculty committee chose Dennerlein's painting titled "Sadness Upon Time," a self-portrait in which Dennerlein used acrylic paint on a 4-by-4-foot canvas. And it happens to fit perfectly in the foyer of the President's House.

"I was surprised to be selected," Dennerlein said. "It's very exciting and I'm honored to have my work displayed in such a prominent part of campus."

The painting took two semesters to complete and depicts a chinchilla painting the artist's face. Dennerlein has had chinchillas as pets, and they have been a common theme and inspiration for her work.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to show off our students' work and what we produce in the Art Department, especially with the foot traffic that comes through the President's House," said Sean MacMillan, associate professor of art and department chair. "Sam is a rock-star student, and she has really embraced what SRU has to offer, both artistically and academically. Sam has a unique ability to bring similar subject matter together, and it's nice to see the chinchillas in this piece because it represents her work."

The work of the President's Student Art Award in Residence recipient is not the only addition to the President's House. Collections from the Martha Gault Art Gallery are also displayed on the walls on the first floor. The shelves and walls in the study have materials from the University Archives, including photos, memorabilia, books and other artifacts that tell the story of SRU's history. Additionally, there is a shelf in the study featuring books authored by SRU faculty.

"This is a great opportunity to display the work of our students and faculty and the art that has been gathered or curated at the University for a long time," Riley said. "I'm so glad to work with faculty on this project and Samantha's beautiful painting is a wonderful way to start. I look forward to many more contributions."

For more information about the President's Student Art Award in Residence, contact the Art Department at 724.738.2020 or email Antonellis at For more information about other contributions to the President's House, contact the Office of the President at 724.738.2000 or

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |