For many sports fans north of 50 years old, the Prairie View Interscholastic League conjures a tidal wave of memories about the way we were. From 1920 to 1970 the PVIL was the governing body for academic, athletic and band competitions for Black high school students in Texas.
During segregation, the PVIL produced an outstanding array of coaches, athletes, students and citizens. To help preserve the memories created by the PVIL, a unique art exhibit is coming to Houston to showcase this glorious period in Texas history.
The project is the brainchild of Cypress area artist/graphic designer Randy Foltin. It celebrates the history of Black Texas high school football and underscores the organization’s theme, “Remembering the Past with Pride.”
“During the tenure of PVIL, particularly in sports, Black high schools in Texas produced a phenomenal quality of athlete in all sports,” Foltin said. “Unfortunately, after desegregation with the exception of give schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and five schools in Houston, all those schools were disbanded and closed. Unceremoniously many have been subjected to the wrecking ball and with it, so many artifacts, records, awards and history.”
Foltin explained how he became involved with PVIL.
“A few years ago, I met Robert Brown who is the chair of the PVIL Coaches Association. They are an alumni group of former coaches, administrators, teachers, athletes, etc. After he shared with me the incredible history of PVIL, I knew I wanted to do something to help preserve that rich legacy.
“The essence of what we came up with is a history of PVIL football through art work,” Foltin continued. “It is a fixed artistic representation that not only attracts viewers to it through graphics, but by including photographs of teams and hall of fame players. This will create a permanent cultural record.”
Foltin’s visual creation not only features the gridiron aspect of the PVIL experience, but the pageantry of the entire experience.
“PVIL football is certainly about football, but it also is about the total experience – the music which was contemporary for the period, the marching bands, drum majors, cheerleaders and majorettes. Just a phenomenal display of showmanship and entertainment. You’re hard-pressed to fine any film from these events, so the artwork brings that into play as well.”
A pictorial documentary of sorts, the exhibit is titled “Jazz ‘N Blues: The Music of PVIL Football,” and consists of some 25 visuals.
“As the name implies we have artwork that focuses not only on football, but the music of the various periods,” Foltin said. “We feature jazz and blues from artists that were popular during the PVIL time frame – prominent local artists like Eddie Vinson, a Yates product [and] other artists like Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet who were from Wheatley High School.
“This project is the culmination of eight years of work, six years in planning, with two years of production,” Foltin said. “We want to tell a story and we want to draw people into the story. The display is more than just a collection of photographs, but a combination of state-of-the-art graphics, combined with photographs.
What: Prairie View Interscholastic League exhibit
When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 3-6:30 p.m.
Where: Christians Tailgate Sports Bar, 1312 Congress