The first personnel decision new Headmaster Bert Hudnall faced when he arrived at North Cross in 1978 was finding a replacement for Doris Church, head of the art department. Bert hired Shirley Johnson (in top photo, and in bottom photo with Liz Holt) and found a teacher that spent the next twenty-one years opening young minds to the great masters and nurturing budding talent in the studio. “It was not just her talent,” Bert said, “but her presence that made the tenor of the art department so positive.”
One of the students impacted by Shirley was Nancy Cunningham Mauck ’79. “Mrs. Johnson was sweet, soft spoken, and patient. She allowed us to discover which mediums we preferred to work in, and then gave us tremendous encouragement and support in our artistic endeavors. She also encouraged us to participate in competitions, which, at the time, really took me out of my comfort zone. I looked forward to every single art class I had with Shirley Johnson.” Shirley’s encouragement worked. Nancy ended up majoring in art in college and has been a professional portrait artist for the past 22 years.
In addition to the teachers in the classroom, Linda Steele, SA ’68 remembers special visitors who came to the classroom and benefitted the students. “In addition to Mrs. Meagher, who was a lovely person and teacher (and mother of my classmate Hugh), the mother of another one of my classmates came in every Friday for art class. Her name was Harriet Stokes, mother of Bobby; she became legendary in the local art community.” Mrs. Stokes helped start the Virginia Watercolor Society and was a supporter of the annual sidewalks art show. She received the Walter Biggs Award for Cultural Achievement and the distinguished alumni award from Roanoke College.