Educational Programming with Athletics & the Arts
Melissa Palombi is a member of the Marketing and Promotions team with UVA Athletics. She also happens to have a background in art education. So when the UVA Women’s Basketball team decided to host a school field trip day that integrated Virginia educational standards for the elementary curriculum, she thought first about how they might use art to fulfill this requirement. Palombi reached out to Walker Elementary School art teacher Samantha Pagni, who recommended tying the partnership into The Fralin’s Jacob Lawrence exhibition.
Famed African American Artist known as “The Story Painter,” Lawrence is widely known for the Migration Series and the Struggle Series. Led by Associate Academic Curator Aimee Hunt, The Fralin team sent its student docents to the school to offer information and inspiration for students to create their own prints in Lawrence’s style. In addition, the students received a special visit from members of the basketball team who showed up to cheer on their creative efforts. “As an athlete, you have to be creative just like you do if you are an artist,” Palombi said. “It is part of your self-identity. Plus, excellence in art is related to excellence in academics, which is an important part of being a student athlete.”
The students’ experience was capped off with a trip to the John Paul Jones Arena to see their new friends in action in a rare weekday matinee game versus Bowling Green, and to see their own Jacob Lawrence-inspired artwork hanging in a special exhibit in the concourse. “Collaborating with UVA Athletics to create art though storytelling was pure magic,” Pagni said. “Using the paintings of Jacob Lawrence served as a springboard to provide my students with an authentic, enriched foundation to create their own visual stories about their passions, struggles and achievements. And the invitation to exhibit their work in a public space left them beaming with pride!” We want to thank the UVA Women’s basketball team for their commitment to this kind of creative education outreach.