Shepherd Snyder Published

Eastern Panhandle Printmaker Highlights Historical Storer College Portraits In Art Exhibit

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An Eastern Panhandle artist is displaying an exhibit this month based on photographs of students at Storer College, a historically Black college in Harpers Ferry created after the Civil War.

The exhibit displays six linoleum portraits, chosen from the West Virginia University Archives’ Storer College Collection in front of flashy wallpaper patterns.

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Rhonda Smith
Portraits of Persistence
The exhibit is on display each weekend in September at The Artists Gallery in Frederick, Maryland.

Rhonda Smith created the exhibit. She formerly taught printmaking for 30 years at Shepherd University and worked at the National Park Service in Harpers Ferry.

“It’s a little different than painting or drawing. It’s an indirect process, not a direct one,” Smith said about the printmaking procedure.

She says the placing of the portraits in front of these bold backgrounds represents Black students’ drive to be recognized.

“The education provided these individuals this opportunity to actually stand up and stand out and stand in front of the wallpaper, and be seen and be acknowledged for who they were and what they had achieved,” Smith said.

She also wants to bring light to a story that is not often told, and that not many locals know. Smith says the exhibit is also a way to educate those who visit about Storer College, one of the most prominent Black colleges of the time.

“It might be a way to get a different group of people to be curious, and to wonder a little bit more about that particular history, and then maybe to actually go to Harpers Ferry and Storer,” Smith said. “I think that’s what education is about — allowing people to stumble into and onto things.”

The exhibit is on display each weekend in September at The Artists Gallery in Frederick, Maryland. Shepherd University professor and author Dawne Raines Burke will give a lecture about Storer College at the exhibit on Sep. 18.