Rudy Green ’71 came to St. Stephen’s as the school’s first Martin Luther King Jr. scholar in the summer of 1968. His experiences on The Hill prompted him to consider issues of cultural identity and diversity more broadly, triggering a life-long interest in these subjects that is reflected in the nationally recognized art collection Green shares with his wife, Joyce Christian. Now, coming full circle, Green and Christian have generously donated eight pieces from their collection to St. Stephen’s.
Green’s arrival on campus occurred at the height of the Civil Rights era, a time when issues of race were being discussed both nationally and within the small school community. “St. Stephen’s really caused me to look at issues of culture in a new way,” said Green, who quickly discovered that life on campus was very different from that of the close-knit, African-American community he knew.
It was a screening of the movie “Black Orpheus,” shown at the St. Stephen’s Film Festival, that solidified his interest in learning about other cultures. Watching the film, Green noticed that there were aspects of the Brazilian culture depicted on screen that reminded him of the culture he had grown up with in Ft. Worth. “It was amazing to see this black culture from another part of the world that felt so familiar,” he said. “At that moment, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any understanding of where black people were in the world, other than in my own neighborhood and in Africa.”
Green began to explore the cultural traditions and influences of people of African descent, focusing primarily on music. Inspired by his late wife, Roslyn Wright, who had an interest in works on paper, he turned his attention to the visual arts.
Green purchased the first piece for his art collection during a vacation to St. Kitts, an island in the West Indies, in 1986. Since then, he has spent almost 30 years researching and collecting works, primarily those of contemporary African-American and African Diaspora [descended from people of Africa] artists, creating a collection that is widely regarded as one of regional, national and international significance.
Several pieces from the Green-Christian collection have been installed in the Booth Student Center, where current Spartans can enjoy them on a daily basis.
“I think a lot about St. Stephen’s and the influence the school has had on who I am today,” explained Green, a former St. Stephen’s trustee. “The school has brought attention to the art that I’ve collected over the years, and it is still actively involved in helping students understand and appreciate diverse cultures, preparing them to be citizens of a global world. These are things that we want to support.”