Steve Prince, an award-winning educator and artist whose work is currently on display in Perrel Art Gallery, spoke to both Upper and Middle School students in February, in two riveting presentations that taught about both art and civil rights.
Director of Engagement and the Distinguished Artist In Residence at The College of William and Mary's Muscarelle Museum of Art, Mr. Prince showed the Middle School students a number of his works, walking them through his inspiration and weaving in important history lessons. Among the topics he taught about were the Norfolk 17, who in early 1959 became the first Black students to enter Norfolk's segregated public schools; the 1939 Alexandria library sit-in, in which a group of Black citizens engaged in civil disobedience to gain admittance to a previously all-white library; and North Carolina A&T students who in 1960 organized their own sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., starting a much larger civil rights movement.
Mr. Prince went beyond Virginia and North Carolina, teaching about the Little Rock Nine; the 1963 bombing of a church in Alabama; and Treme, a municipality in Louisiana known for being the nation's oldest Black neighborhood. While many of the events he taught about through his art were sad moments in United States history, Mr. Prince offered a bright message.
“We have to look at the past and see what people have gone through," he said, adding that more work needs to be done to right the wrongs of history. But, he is optimistic that the current generation of students will bring about positive change. “You're the generation that is going to take us to the next level," he said.
On the heels of Fat Tuesday (February 21), Norfolk Academy's Upper School on Friday, February 24 celebrated "Gumbo Na Na," a quintessentially Bulldog take on Gumbo Ya Ya (a version of Creole gumbo), with an explosion of the fine arts tied to New Orleans.
The Bulldog Jazz Band played in the Johnson Theater Lobby, directed by Mr. Crichlow. Dance Master Elbert Watson performed a new piece to Sam Cooke's “A Change Is Gonna Come," with a large screen video of events from the Civil Rights Movement and other more recent moments of societal upheaval and change.
The centerpiece of the event was a presentation by Mr. Prince, whose exhibit “Kitchen Table Talk" is currently on display in Perrel Art Gallery. Mr. Prince held Upper School students spellbound with a presentation about his artwork, including sculpture, banners, and canvases that are 40-feet long. His work interweaves African imagery, myriad historic figures from Rosa Parks to the Norfolk 17, and cultural traditions from his roots in New Orleans.
His mesmerizing account, which included music and dance moves, drew two standing ovations. Upper School Visual Arts Teacher Betsy DiJulio, who conceived of the event, dedicated “Gumbo Na Na" to Headmaster Dennis Manning, who was born in New Orleans and lived there until he was 6 years old. Afterward, Upper School students enjoyed a New Orleans-inspired lunch, with chicken gumbo, fried okra, and (the crowning delight) beignets for dessert.