Numina - Latin for "sacred space"- was the first student-run professional art gallery in the nation. In 2000, it was created from an abandoned storage area at Princeton High School with the help of faculty advisor John Kavalos. It has continued to exist as an independently funded, non- profit alternative space. Contributions have come from sources as diverse as the Geraldine Dodge and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. Numina's reputation has consequently grown dramatically, and is now among the most prestigious art institutions in New Jersey.
While it continually curates annual Princeton High School student exhibitions and organizes poetry readings, film series headed 'Nights at Numina', the gallery devotes most of the year to exhibiting the work of emerging or established area artists. Numina's first academic year began with an exhibition of photographs by Princeton resident Ricardo Barros, followed by the book art and sculpture of Miriam Schaer, a series of photographs depicting the New Jersey Shore by Tony Gonzalez, and a senior thesis show featuring the works of graduating Princeton High School students Anthony Fraser, Megan Peterson, and Julia Sanders.In its second year, Numina Gallery featured the paintings of figurative artist Mel Leipzig. After appearing at Numina, Leipzig's show moved to the Gallery Henoch in Chelsea, where the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased one of the paintings originally shown at Numina. The following exhibition, titled "Photographic Memoirs: The Princeton Public Schools," consisted of photographs depicting classrooms of Princeton schools from 1883 through 1948, and traveled the state as a result of its success. The third show featured the marble mosaics of another Princeton resident, Antonio Seldon. In May of 2002, the gallery exhibited the paintings of Theresa Marchetta, '98 alumni of Princeton High School. Later that year, Philadelphia artist Paul Loughney's monotypes were shown. The concluding exhibition for 2002 was a group show of the work of six Princeton High School alumni.
During March of 2003, Numina exhibited Judith Brodsky's, "Memoirs of an Assimilated Family." For the succeeding two years, while Numina Gallery's second and much larger space was constructed, the staff focused on the New Jersey Transcultural Initiative, a statewide program organized by the Rutgers Office of Intercultural Affairs. Other exhibition venues for the Transcultural Initiative were the most prestigious museums and exhibition sites, such as The Newark Museum, The Jersey City Museum, and The Montclair Museum. Numina's contribution, a video installation titled. "'Til Every Art Be Thine," explored the cultural past and present of Princeton, using the racist WPA mural at the Palmer Square Post Office, and included extensive video interviews of individuals representing every strata of the Princeton community, including interviews with world-renowned sculptor Hans Haacke and contemporary art historian Hal Foster. Numina appeared in two documentaries, one of which, "The New American Art," was nominated for an Emmy in 2005 on NJN's arts program, "State of the Arts." Later that year, Numina worked with the Arts Council of Princeton to develop "Relatively Seeing", a juried exhibition reflecting on the hundredth anniversary of Einstein's Theory of Relativity.
In the spring of 2006, Numina showed the work of Raphael Ortiz, founding member of the International Fluxus Movement. Ortiz, also mentioned in the NJN documentary, was impressed and approached Numina about a prospective show. Mr. Ortiz worked closely with the students in selecting work for the exhibit. The show consisted of multiple large vinyl prints, early video works, and a massive projection of his live performance at the Whitney from the '90s. Selections from our show traveled to The Jersey City Museum for a retrospective, which took place in 2007. In Numina's sixth year, it featured Princeton High School alumni artists.
In 2007, Numina showed an exhibit by Kaaren Patterson, alumnus of Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts, entitled "Darkness and the Divine Feminin." The following year, Numina exhibited "Glass and Light", which featured approximately 50 hand blown glass pieces by students and professors from the Secondary School of Glassmaking in Kamenicky Senov. The Princeton Education Foundation exhibited "150+ Years of Princeton Public Schools: A Pictorial Retrospective" in 2009. It consisted of a photographic retrospective of the schools in all their incarnations from the 1800s through the establishment of a regional system in 1965. It also featured old articles from The Tower, copies of The Ivy, varsity letters, detention slips, student essays and other cultural relics. Lisa Paine and Charlotte Bialek, volunteers for PEF, created a textual history for each school to accompany framed photographs and items in glass display cases. On opening night, countless alumni and retired staff members filled the gallery with memories and stories.
For Black History Month of 2010, Numina hosted the works of Rex Goreleigh, an African-American Artist (1902 – 1986). A local resident, Goreleigh directed Princeton Group Arts and "The Studio on the Canal" where he taught art for 20 years. His Migrant series explored the lives of migrant workers in the Princeton area. On opening night of the exhibit, many students and Princeton residents shared stories about Goreleigh's passion for education and the arts. Hundreds of students discovered his story and the history of the migrant workers from documents provided by the Princeton Historical Society, which Numina enlarged for the exhibition. In the spring of 2010, Numina exhibited its first student Photography and Video show. Numina also dedicated a wall for a "Doodles" exhibit in the student show, which included student doodles, and an open space for attendees to create their own drawings.
Numina expanded its role both in the Princeton community and the high school in 2010 by taking on cross-disciplinary projects that celebrated the creative and artistic minds of a wide range of students. Students in Mr. Casagne’s French classes displayed an array of posters featuring the lyrics and biography of Jacques Brel to coincide with the choir’s performance of Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Numina members set up the exhibit in a timeline fashion. Students from Stuart Country Day School, Princeton Day School and West Windsor Plainsboro North were invited to display art in any media for the Black n’ White Show. All of Princeton High School’s freshman English classes submitted their projects inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey. These projects included scrapbooks, computer games, paintings and drawings, models, relief maps, puppet shows, and board games. For Black History Month, Ghanaian sculptor Mike Gyampo from Grounds for Sculpture and landscape painter Ben Colbert collaborated on an exhibit which included 18 large metal, marble and wooden sculptures and 18 paintings; a local resident purchased a large sculpture from Mike Gyampo entitled Turning Point. Numina invited 22 artists who teach in Princeton and the surrounding area to a group show that included sculpture, photography, painting, prints, and installation art. To celebrate Earth Day, Numina held its first Green Show which included TerraCycle artwork and merchandise, Arts Council Student work, French Class masks made out of recycled objects, collages from studio art classes, the nature journals from AP English III, Horticulture Club plants and artwork, and individual student artwork that was nature inspired or made out of recycled objects. Numina also held its annual Student Show and Senior Show.
Numina held a theme show entitled “Dream Show”, the “Freshman Odyssey Projects” and its annual Student Show and Senior Show during the 2011-2012 school year. On March 1st 2012, the Arts Council of Princeton hosted the work of Sara Schneckloth in their exhibition entitled Drawing Beyond: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawing. Schneckloth, artist and professor at the University of South Carolina, mailed a 30x10 foot piece of black paper to Numina with an outline created by her students with white china marker. Over the course of a month, Judy Buckley, Linda Nickman, John Kavalos and Mollie Murphy brought their art students to the gallery during and after school to fill in the spaces with incredible detail and create new shapes and patterns. Sara Schneckloth collaborated with PHS art students on the color in the piece before the opening night of Numina Gallery’s exhibition Selected Works of Sara Schneckloth,curated by Numina director Gaby Shypula (‘12).With the help of Glenn Crawford and Numina advisor Scott Cameron, Numina members including directors Veronika Bychkova (‘13) and Jane Robertson (‘14) mounted the artwork outside the PAC on April 5th, 2013.
Princeton High School’s Numina Gallery celebrated Black History Month with the exhibition “Princeton’s Black History: A Pictorial Retrospective”. Gaby Shypula and Veronika Bychkova incorporated several collections from The Historical Society of Princeton, Shirley Satterfield and the Princeton Regional Schools Archive, maintained by Liz Lien. The exhibit included photographs of the first black community in Princeton (before the construction of Palmer Square in 1929), the “Colored Y”, the segregated Betsey Stockton School, Witherspoon School for Colored Children and Mt. Lucas School. Many photographs featured Christine Moore Howell, the first African American to graduate from PHS. Numina members created a documentary that included interviews of Shirley Satterfield and Jim Floyd, which played on opening night.
The 2012 school year started out with the clatter of swords, as Numina opened its space to a fundraiser that included an Extended Edition showing of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In October, Numina welcomed students to submit their works of art to the Black N' White Show. The gallery displayed many different media such as drawings, paintings, literature, photos, sketches and prints. The Photography Show showcased the students’ skills in photo manipulation, conceptualization, and certain specialty techniques. The next display was the annual Odyssey Show, as freshman once again submitted their diverse final projects to the gallery for the school and their parents to see. In February, Numina spread its reaches to five other schools in the district for Blooming Collaboration. Every art teacher in the district directed their students to make their own small flower. Numina created a vine-like pattern on the walls out of the flowers. On reception night, children and parents alike, joined their teachers in finding their flowers and even creating and adding more to the vast variety already pinned to the walls. Still with the community in mind, Numina created a show to exhibit paintings from some local Princeton artists in its next show. The 2012-2013 year closed off with its annual Senior and Student Show. The end of the year show showcased nearly 500 works of art from students in all of the art classes, as well as studio installations from the Studio 2D levels III and IV classes.