Geraldine “Geri” Robinson Crossland (b. 1940)
Born in 1940, Geraldine “Geri” Robinson Crossland was born in New York, NY and graduated from Trenton Central High School, Trenton, NJ in 1959. She spent the next two years obtaining licensing from Maison Sapho, School of Dressmaking and Design in New York, NY, prior to moving to Houston to attend Texas Southern University in the Spring of 1973. During her time at TSU, Crossland studied art with the esteemed Dr. John T. Biggers and Carroll Simms, and majored in Art Education, graduating in May 1976. Upon graduation, Crossland began teaching art to high school students at Jack Yates Senior High School in Houston Independent School District.
For over 23 years as a high school art teacher, Crossland was very active in programs to advance and promote future artists and arts educators, including teaching Pre-AP and AP Studio Art courses at Rice University, and participated in “Training of Future Teachers” where she supervised 8 student teachers from Texas Southern University, University of Houston and St. Thomas University. During her career, Crossland held professional associations with: American Federation of Teachers, where she presented on “An Interdisciplinary Approach: Fine Arts, Language Arts and Science” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and orchestrated both “Mural Project” and “Director for a Day – A Place For All People” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. During her time at Yates, she was recognized as “Teacher of the Year” from 1980-2000 and “Teacher of the Month” in 1986-87. In 2003, Crossland retired from teaching after devoting herself to her students for over two decades.
In discussing her career as an arts educator, she states:
Reflecting back on my middle school years, I immediately think of Mrs. Constance Berry. Mrs. Berry was my art teacher. She made a tremendous impression on me and, subsequently, was responsible for my becoming an art teacher.
Mrs. Berry was a fabulous teacher. She was always prepared, in control, fair, concerned, and always took time to assist and answer students' questions. Above all, Mrs. Berry made one feel that every piece of work rendered was the most beautiful piece that she had ever seen. She would always greet her students with a beautiful smile that said, "Welcome, you are going to have a memorable adventure today."
I cannot, for the life of me, ever remember her sitting at her desk. She was always moving around the room - checking out everything we did. Everyone loved hovering around her when she gave demonstrations at the beginning of a new lesson because she smelled so sweet. I don't know what power she had over her students, but one of us was always eager to assist in any way possible. I suppose we loved listening to her tell us what a great job we had done followed by that beautiful smile.
There was never any doubt in my mind that I would become a teacher, and I thank Mrs. Berry for all of the confidence she gave me. On the last day of school as I prepared to leave her classroom, I can still recall hearing her say (as she gave me a hug), "'I just know that you are going to do a great job. Keep up the great work."
If I had to name my most significant contribution in education, I would have to acknowledge that it is my ability to foster self-esteem and confidence in students, as well as giving them that winning spirit. I have two scrap books filled with awards that my students have won over the past years. I am so proud of these students. For the most part, these students have been those who came with little self-confidence and low self-esteem. I was determined that I would help them make a change and become winners.
Many of them would share with me the serious family problems they were experiencing, or just feeling bad about themselves. As I listened to them speak and saw the feelings of defeat in their eyes, I would later think of ways to make a change.
One of my exceptional education students who had never entered an art contest won a second prize in the Houston Livestock Show and Art Exhibit for her western hat. She was so excited to see her hat on display.
Another example was a football player who won a one hundred dollar savings bond for his essay describing what he would do as Director for a Day (sponsored by the Museum for Fine Arts). He was very surprised and elated at his victory. When he turned in his paper, he replied: “I know I'm not going to win." He did, and the kids have kept on winning over the years. My scrap books are filled with success stories.
While pursuing a professional career in art education, Crossland continues to paint and perfect her craft. Several of her student works completed during her time at Texas Southern University are published in the 1978 book Black Art in Houston by John Biggers, Carroll Simms, and John Edward Weems published by Texas A&M University Press. Like her mentors at TSU, Crossland has spent a lifetime inspiring future generations of artists through her work as an educator.
Biographical and Career Highlights
• 1940 Born in New York, NY
• 1959 Graduated Trenton Central High School, Trenton, NJ
• 1961 Licensed by Maison Sapho, School of Dressmaking and Design, New York, NY
• 1973-76 Majored in Art Education, Texas Southern University, Houston TX
• 1976 Graduated with a B.A. from Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 1977-2003 Taught Art at Jack Yates Senior High School in Houston Independent School District
• 2003 Retired from teaching in HISD
• Currently resides in Missouri City, TX
Selected Public Collection
• Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
Art should bar no restrictions as far as one's interpretation of what art means to him.
Personally, I feel that art is where you find it. It means many different things to different people; therefore, what constitutes a work of art for one person does not necessarily have the same effect on another. If I were asked to give a brief definition of what art is to me, I would say: Art is something that gives me aesthetic pleasure and brings about a good feeling, as it relates to a given object.
When I think about a colorful butterfly that I have seen at one time or another, or an autumn sunset, or a serene rose—all of which represent works of art to me—I see beauty. The rose, upon sight, offers not one but three appeals to the senses. First, it enchants you with its soft, sweet fragrance. After it has taken you under its spell, you are invited to caress the delicate silken petals which are individual works of art themselves. Yet, they are also an integral part of the total composition of the rose. And, last but not least, it is left to the eyes of ??he beholder to be devoured visually, as a magnificent work of art. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing that can be added or taken away that would enhance the beauty of the rose. That is as it should be with art; it should speak for itself.
I enjoy painting and drawing subject matter that relates to our “Environment” and the “Family.” Whether my work be portrayed in an abstract or in a realistic form, I try to work from a very personal, spiritual, and gut level. I feel that when an artist strives for these goals, his or her art will truly speak for itself.
Art wears many faces and breaks all language barriers. Regardless of its form, it encompasses universality and affords the artist and the artisan endless bounds yet to be undertaken.