priscilla block wins lifetime achievement award from cofac

Priscilla Block (center), director of St. Louis Artworks, won the Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts from the UMSL College of Fine Arts and Communication. She received the award from college Dean Jean Miller and UMSL Chancellor Tom George. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The College of Fine Arts and Communication at the University of Missouri–St. Louis honored both familiar faces and newcomers to the St. Louis art world and the university with its Award Celebration this month.

Priscilla Block won the Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts after decades of work in the St. Louis art world. She is now the executive director of St. Louis Artworks, which provides young people with job training, art education and art apprenticeships. Previously, she taught art at St. Louis Community College and Maryville University. She also owns Priscilla Fine Art Studio, which she uses to produce her own works in fine-art printmaking and, formerly, ceramics.

When Block joined Artworks in 2001, the program only offered summer jobs but has expanded to a year-round, multi-faceted organization.

“My favorite part of my job and what I’m most proud of is coming up with diverse ideas for projects that kids can tie into job skills,” Block said. “That may be learning about the intersection of art and science or it may be learning about environmental stewardship and fiscal literacy through art.”

Block worked as an apprentice to a professional ceramicist before taking up the medium herself. She worked independently as an artist before deciding to get into art education, and she earned bachelor’s degrees in photography, painting and graphic design from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She then earned a master’s degree in printmaking from Washington University in St. Louis.

“I was very honored by winning the award,” Block said. “After so many years involved in the world of art, it was nice to receive that recognition.”

From left, Michele Davis, administrative assistant in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, winner of the Staff Excellence Award; Robert Nordmann, E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Music Education, winner of the Faculty Excellence Award; and Priscilla Block, winner of the Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. (Photo by August Jennewein.)

The Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards honor one college faculty member and one staff member of the college. The 2014 award went to Robert Nordman, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Music Education, and Michele Davis, administrative assistant for the Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies.

Nordman said he is looking forward to adding the excellence award to his wall of accolades. His list of accomplishments includes being music supervisor for the St. Louis Public Schools from 1983 to 2005, and being a member of the Missouri Music Educators Hall of Fame. At UMSL, he also directs the E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative.

“Of the awards I have received during my 54 years as a music educator, the 2014 Faculty Excellence Award is particularly meaningful because it came to me by nomination of my colleagues in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, the recommendation of the College Planning Committee, and the approval of the dean — an impressive group of folks, indeed,” Nordman said.

Davis, administrative assistant for the Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies, said she was surprised to learn she won the honor after being at UMSL for just four years. After more than 20 years working in the corporate sector, she was thrilled to get a chance to work in the arts.

In her position, Davis coordinates the day-to-day operations of the department and assists students who pass through. She’s also a singer herself, having performed country music in Nashville and is a back-up singer in the Tom Christopher Band.

“I’ve loved working for this department,” Davis said. “All the professors are just awesome. It’s been really great working here.”

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Rachel Webb

Rachel Webb