In this Year of Belonging at Norfolk Academy, students can think through what that means through a new exhibit in the school's Perrel Art Gallery.
Root Beliefs is the work of Heather Bryant, a veteran artist who is well-known regionally and has had showings around the world. Ms. Bryant created the works she chose for this exhibit between 2006 and 2018. She selected a variety of images that have a shared theme.
They illustrate encounters between people faced with the choice of accepting or rejecting each other, Ms. Bryant said. Her goal is to promote harmony and emphasize common experiences of mankind.
People have an innate desire to belong, Ms. Bryant said. That stems from the need to be a part of something greater than oneself, she thinks.
“Since we are all made of the same elements, philosophically or physically, we are all united and belong together," she said. “Through that understanding, our differences can celebrated and appreciated."
Ms. Bryant, who teaches at Old Dominion University, has a wealth of experience in educational settings. She will teach Norfolk Academy students in advanced studio art classes, showing them the process of monoprinting on October 29, October 31, November 5, and November 7.
In addition to her teaching, Ms. Bryant has exhibited her work around the United States and internationally, in places including the K. Caraccio Print Collection in New York; Special Collections of the Art Museum of Estonia; Print Collection of The School of Art at the University of Wales; Print Collection at Zayed University in Dubai; and Proyecto 'ace Print Collection in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Knox Garvin, director of the gallery and an Upper School art teacher, reached out to Ms. Bryant when he learned this year's theme would focus on belonging.
There are opposing forces in Ms. Bryant's work, Mr. Garvin said, such as a struggle between vice and virtue. The work exposes a struggle to belong. But ultimately, it creates a sense of harmony.
“I like its imaginative qualities, how free it is," Mr. Garvin said.
The art gallery, which is located inside the John H. Tucker Jr. Arts Center, typically has four exhibits a year; in the fall, spring, around the winter holidays, and toward the close of the school calendar. Two are done by students, the other two by outside artists.
Mr. Garvin chooses the outside artists. In addition to how Ms. Bryant's art complements the theme of belonging, he likes her creative imagination. Students can sometimes be perfectionists, he said. They need to see that it's good to try new things, even if they don't always work out.
“It's OK to be different and strange and surreal," Mr. Garvin said.