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Mentors and Protégés

Lou and Di Stovall have mentored many artists through their silkscreen printing studio, Workshop, Inc. Who mentored the Stovalls?

As a youth, Di Bagley Stovall studied with Barbara Pound in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia. After two years at Columbus College and a year at the Bradley Museum, also in Columbus, she entered the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, the city in which she met Lou Stovall. She also studied at the Banff School of Art in Alberta, Canada (in 2022, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity). 

Likewise, Lou Stovall traces his artistic journey to childhood in an autobiographical essay.1 An artist in his Springfield Massachusetts neighborhood taught him how to draw, especially horses. Then came Helen Norrgard, whom he dubbed the "angel of art teachers," at Springfield Technical High School.

Lou Stovall encountered silkscreen painting while working at a grocery store as a teenager. In the store's basement sign shop, Al La Pierre taught him the silkscreen process, which was then used primarily for commercial purposes, like advertising. In 1956, Stovall started college at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, where it was difficult to find housing due to racism. After his first semember, his father became seriously ill. Stovall returned home and helped to support his mother and siblings for several years after his father's passing.

One year before the 1963 March on Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC, Stovall entered Howard University to finish his undergraduate degree. There he met printmaker James Lesesne Wells, who would become an important mentor, along with James A. Porter and David Driskell, both painters and art historians, and Loïs Mailou Jones, a painter and textile designer.

In an interview with Washington, DC artist Larry Saxton, Stovall described his experience as an art history major at Howard University in the early 1960s.

There was a sense of accepting academics as an active part of an artist's life, and I liked that. There was a challenge there and, primarily, Professor James A. Porter was the glue that made people like me stick. Professor Porter was a nationally renowned author and authority on African American art and history, and he was the head of the fine arts department while I was there.2

When the Stovalls won funding from the Stern Family Foundation in 1968, they set up Workshop, Inc., whose founding principles included education. Advisors to Workshop, Inc. included Walter Hopps, Nina Felshin, and Renato Danese, all renowned curators.

The Stovalls honored their mentors. Lou Stovall framed and rematted many of James A. Porter's paintings and drawings for a retrospective at the Howard University Gallery of Art.3 Professor Porter's portrait hung permanently on the wall at Workshop, Inc., where Professor Driskell's and Professor Jones's paintings reemerged as silkscreen prints. Lou Stovall's fiftieth birthday celebration raised funds to fulfill Professor Wells's dream of exhibiting his work in his home city, New York.4 

Likewise, protégés paid tribute to the Stovalls. For example, a photo in the exhibition catalogue from Through Their Eyes: The Art of Lou and Di Stovall shows the Stovalls at Atlantic Christian College, where Norbert Irvine, who studied at the Corcoran Workshop (predecessor to Workshop, Inc.), served on the art faculty. Stovall assistant Anne Smith wrote an essay for the 2012 exhibit, Vertical Views: Silkscreen Monoprint Collage, at American University's Katzen Center. In addition to welcoming generations of artists for mutual work and learning, the Stovalls have inspired countless school children on visits to Workshop, Inc.

Notes

1. Stovall, Lou. "My Story" in Of the Land: The Art and Poetry of Lou Stovall, ed. Will Stovall. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2022.

2. Saxton, Larry. "Making Magic," Washington Informer. 07 Feb 2008, p. 39.

3. James A. Porter, Artist and Art Historian: The Memory of the Legacy, Howard University Gallery of Art, October 15, 1992-January 8, 1993.

4. Lou Stovall: The Art of Silkscreen Printmaking, Exhibition catalogue, Howard University Gallery of Art, August 18-October 14, 2001.

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