Students at Princeton High School made history in 2000 when they opened the first professional, student-run art gallery in the entire nation, the Numina Gallery. With the help of Mr. Kavalos, a former art teacher at PHS, the students transformed an empty storage space in the school, previously used as an auto shop, into an art gallery highlighting a wide variety of artistic styles.
The Numina Gallery has both professional and student work represented at its art shows. Three years ago, PHS alum and WWII veteran Sergio Bonotto ’44 shared sketches he had drawn of fallen soldiers, which the Numina Gallery then paired with war stories he told them.
“One of my favorites was when he went to the hospital—he was shot in the cheek. The person he was sharing his room with had a scar running down from his eye all the way down to his chin from one of the battles, and the guy was cursing that he could no longer be a jewel thief because he was so easily recognizable,” said Stefan Pophristic ’17, the gallery’s current leader.
Student work has ranged from a homage to Jackson Pollock’s work to an exhibit on social issues and politics.
“We got to dig deep into … contemporary issues and find out what’s going on,” said Leslie Liu ’18 regarding the politics show. “I really liked how it facilitated really insightful discussion. That was really fun.”
Hanna Szabo ’17, a member of the Numina Gallery, also talked about how the art shows can be more interactive for the public.
“We had lots of supplies from art teachers and just extra supplies like magazines and paper and colored pencils and glitter and all sorts of fun stuff, and then we had people make these four-by-three inch little cards and they could make whatever they wanted. It was just a free space to be creative,” she said.
Numina Gallery is already planning shows for this year. Its advisor, Matthew Pembleton, has contacted a few professional artists in hopes of arranging art shows, but nothing is finalized yet.
“We have a few ideas in the mix, like … the AP Art History show, and we have one that stemmed from graffiti and is now something about other arts of that type. We’re just kind of brainstorming for ideas,” said Maya Pophristic ’19.In addition to gallery shows, the group is planning on creating a mural in the staircase by the science rooms, which Principal Snyder approved.
“We want to incorporate a lot of different styles and what people think of when they think of art. It will be a very free-flowing mural going down from the top of the staircase up and down the two sides,” Stefan Pophristic said.
When asked about his favorite aspect of running the gallery, Pophristic said, “I think that it’s a great opportunity to be creative in ways that you wouldn’t really expect. You just have piles and piles of art, and you look at it and say, ‘How can I turn this into a show that people enjoy?’ After all your hard work, when you finally get to opening night, a bunch of people show up to admire the art.”
“My favorite moment of being part of Numina is just setting up for the shows and gathering all the artwork because that’s when I get to reflect on how people express themselves through different media. It’s also pretty chill, and there’s good music. It’s all happy,” Liu said.
Art skills are not required for joining the club—only an appreciation of them. The Numina Gallery has helped share dozens of artists’ works and continues to make history as a trailblazing student-run art gallery. Meetings are every Wednesday at break and an interest meeting will be held after the club fair.
Correction: Leslie Liu is of class ’18, not class ’19.