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Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023

Strategic Locations


Henry Price passes along what was so freely given to him along his journey

How does a person whose first art class wasn’t available to him until his sophomore year in college end up as the head of art for Caddo Parish Public Schools, the president of Shreveport Regional Arts Council and a beloved leader in the arts community?

Henry Price’s answer is simple: “I’ve had people placed at strategic locations in my life.”

Over a delightful meal at Gibbons Fine Grill (he chose the fried shrimp while I enjoyed the grilled shrimp), the 73-year-old legend took me on a trip through his amazing life.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could.” Henry Price recites the beginning of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” when I ask him how he got from where he began to where he is now and how he has been able to accomplish all that he has.

It has been quite a journey. And every step of the way – at each strategic location – there has been someone who has played an important role in the adventure.

Price’s journey began in the village of Grand Cane in DeSoto Parish, where he and his brother would take clay from the earth and sculpt it into figurines.

“I would take twigs and break them,” he recalls, “to show the horse raring up. I didn’t know the terminology. I didn’t know it was an armature.”

The young boy wasn’t aware of the terminology because he had never been exposed to an art class – he just enjoyed creating things out of whatever was available. It would be quite a few years before he knew just what he had created from the clay of his hometown.

When it was time to start school, he had to travel to Mansfield to attend Johnson Elementary.

“Every day from Grand Cane we passed a school that we couldn’t attend,” says Price, who grew up before integration. “By the time I was in fourth grade, they had built a school for people of color in Grand Cane. The junior high school included grades four through eight.”

Like in elementary school, however, no art classes were offered in middle school. Fortunately, Price did have people who encouraged his talent in making posters and banners.

And when he got to ninth grade at DeSoto High School in Mansfield, the person in that strategic location was Lloyd Jackson.

“He is one of the smartest men I’ve ever met,” says Price. “He did so many things extremely well. I was in the same homeroom for four years – we met in the same classroom every day. Seeing him every single day inspired me and generated interest in a lot of different things.

“Mr. Jackson recognized the talent and ability I had and inspired me.”

He also gave Price his first set of pastels. “I can see that case as if it were yesterday,” Price says with a smile. “You open it and there is the tissue. Lift it up, then all of those colors.”

After graduating from high school, Price had a partial scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge, but his parents couldn’t afford to send him there.

That’s when Price’s junior high principal called his sister to ask what Henry was doing. When told “hanging out with friends,” Bessie Steels said, “Tell him to come see me.”

When Price went to see Steels, she said, “Let me tell you what you’re going to do. Next Monday, William Briscoe (a former classmate) is coming from Mansfield through Grand Cane to Shreveport. He’s going to Southern University in Shreveport. You need to go, too.”

The good news was that when Southern University of Shreveport opened in 1967, it cost only $97. The bad news was Price didn’t have $97.

“I talked with my grandmother and told her what I wanted to do,” explains Price. “She had a term – she said, ‘Let’s contract.’ So we went for a walk and talked. She asked me if I was sure that’s what I wanted to do. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, and she gave me $97. Where the hell she got $97, I have no clue to this day.”

During Price’s second year at Southern, he had his first art course – taught by the next influential person in his life, Roosevelt Daniel.

When Price had completed that year, Daniel took Price and Terry Coleman to his aunt’s house in Baton Rouge (his original home) and said, “Aunt Mary, these guys are going to live with you and take care of your house.”

And that’s what they did for the next two years while they attended Southern University in Baton Rouge. After getting his undergraduate degree, Price got his graduate degree from Louisiana Tech and was ready to enter the workforce.

Through one of his teachers at Tech – whose wife taught at Grambling – Price had a job offer to work in the art department at Grambling. He also had an offer to teach art in Caddo Parish.

The road he chose led him to Caddo, where he taught art at North Caddo High School.

“After one year there, the demand for art was so great that they had to hire a second teacher,” says Price.

It turns out teaching art wasn’t Price’s only talent – and the administrators at North Caddo recognized it. He had a way of reaching students in a calm, understanding way while instilling in them a love for learning.

“They told me I needed to get certified in administration,” he says. “I told them to leave me alone, but they kept on. They said, ‘We don’t see students from your classes in the office for discipline.’ I said, ‘That’s because they don’t have time – I have something for them to do.’”

After a year as assistant principal at North Caddo, Price was called by high school director Stanley Powell to take a job at “a new school we’re opening over in Stoner Hill.”

That would be Caddo Magnet High School, where Price served as assistant principal from 1980-1995. Although he wasn’t teaching classes, Price stayed active in the arts by working with SRAC, Sci-Port Discovery Center, the Meadows Museum, Norton Art Gallery, the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Robinson Film Center and the American Rose Center.

With his current position as head of art for Caddo Parish Schools, Price says he “enjoys working with art teachers, who in turn are working with children.”

“Even today, I don’t know that I’m an artist,” says Price. “I will show you some images of some of my work, but I think of myself as a student of the arts.”

A student passing along what was so freely given to him.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com


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