Virginia State University, a historically Black college located in Petersburg, was founded in 1882 as Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. The institution went through a series of name and curriculum changes from 1902-1930 as the Virginia state legislature revised charters regarding education for African Americans. It became known as Virginia State College for Negroes in 1930. The two-year branch in Norfolk was added to the college in 1944; the Norfolk division became a four-year branch in 1956 and gained independence as Norfolk State College in 1969. Meanwhile, the parent school was renamed Virginia State College in 1946. Finally, the legislature passed a law in 1979 to provide the present name, Virginia State University. (courtesy of Virginia State University)The gallery began roughly 25 years ago, named after the former alumna, Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984), a Lynchburg and Petersburg artist and
architect. Meredith received a certificate for teachers from Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State University). Hired in 1930 to teach art at Virginia State College for Negroes, Meredith became chair of the art department in 1935, a position she held until her retirement in 1958. She exhibited her artwork at galleries in Virginia, North Carolina, and New York. Meredith later focused her artistic vision on architecture and interior design. In 1938, she designed an International Style house at the Eastern edge of the Virginia State campus.
(Library of Virginia – African American Trailblazer)Each Spring, the gallery hosts the Senior Student exhibition, though because the majority of the students in the program follow the Graphic Design track, nearly half of the work exhibited in the 2011 Shades of Green show were design projects focused on product logo and packaging. The 2011 Shades of Green show runs from April 18 - May 3, but because of the reduction in support and staff available to oversee the show, the gallery is not left open during the day for students to enjoy. Instead it is locked and one must seek entry from the Art & Design department office, just down the hall from the gallery.
VSU Harris Hall
Currently, the Meredith Gallery is suffering from budget cuts to the Art & Design programs. The maintenance and care of the gallery is managed by the department faculty as part of their service commitment to the university. In the past, the gallery hosted exhibitions from visiting artists, with an emphasis on Contemporary work.
Virginia State University has a small permanent collection of artwork that is scattered throughout the campus in department offices. Unfortunately, there is no established catalog or exact provenance records for these works. Thomas Larose, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Art History and current department chair is working to correct this issue and has been taking care to accurately catalog any new gifts to the university. The university relies solely on donation for any new artwork for the collection, and because of the budget cuts, there is no current plan to enhance the collection or the potential uses for the Meredith Gallery.
2011 Senior exhibition work by Brenton Claiborne
Shannon Cruse Ranson