Farewell to the Head of Visual Arts: as far as his eyes can see

The Head Master and Mr Collins at Quad Assembly this morning.

Mr Stephen Collins joined the Visual Arts Department at Trinity in January 1987, coming to Trinity from the Correspondence School in Darwin. After serving Trinity faithfully for 34 years, he was today farewelled on Quad.

“Over his 34 years at Trinity, Mr Collins has influenced hundreds of Trinity boys whose experience of Visual Art under his leadership has led them to appreciate beauty and expertise, to develop skills and creativity, and to understand the power of art to challenge, to transform and to uplift,” said Head Master Mr Bowden.

A brief reflection across the varied roles he has held, include:

  • Tutor in Wilson Hogg House
  • Founding member of the Trinity Athletics Club in 1987 and 1988
  • MIC Athletics in 1990

He was appointed to Head of Visual Arts in 1997 and has led the team for 24 years. His stature as an art educator was recognised in 2014, when he was appointed President of the Visual Arts and Design Educators Association of NSW.

He has led many cultural tours to Canada, the USA, Italy, Greece, and Europe and has also been involved with sporting tours. In 2006 he led an African Safari tour. In 1990, he organised a Year 11 excursion to hear Nelson Mandela speak in Sydney.

“He has for many years taught in Zimbabwe during school holiday periods, and in 2011 formed the Umhambi Zambezi Orphan Project in Zimbabwe. This project provides funds for orphaned children to be educated in local schools. At Fiesta, we can always find Mr Collins running a stall to raise money for this project,” added Mr Bowden.

Mr Collins’ work with Trinity has been enriched by his own continuing practice as an artist, with his great love being ceramics. On Quad today he shared with the students that during his time at the School he strived to build a better understanding of visual arts, and the numerous ways creative expression contributes to character development:

“I teach a creative subject and strongly believe in divergent thinking which leads to different solutions  – rather than convergent thinking which leads to one solution. Different solutions can easily be applied to creative subjects and these solutions come from experimentation.

“Experimenting in art, drama, music and creative writing provides opportunities for you to express manliness or masculinity. You can experiment with ideas and figure out who you are in these creative subjects – trying out different ideas in a safe place is OK.

“The plaque at the entrance to Delmar Gallery has a quote from Thucydides who said “ For we are lovers of the beautiful yet simple in our tastes; and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness”. Think about what that means – go over to Delmar and read the plaque and spend some time thinking about what that means for you.

“Engage in the creative arts at school to think and experiment with ideas – to develop an understanding of yourself and the world around you.”

Mr Collins said that as information is increasingly being presented visually, studying art enables students to access this information through visual literacy and discussion about the ideas and values found in art. “We will all engage in the arts at some time, and we ought to learn about the arts because they are part of what it means to be human.”

He reminded students that the more they invest in their time at Trinity, the more they will get out. He reminded them of their opportunities, sharing a powerful story from his time teaching and building an orphanage in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe, where he has put about 100 students through school from Kindergarten to leaving high school over the past ten years.

“Once when I was talking to one young fellow there about his school ambition, I asked him how far he wanted to go? He replied, ‘further than my eyes can see !’… further than my eyes can see !’ He had dreams that an education would take him out of poverty and the violent situation where he lived. Another student called education a weapon against poverty. It really struck me how these students wanted to learn, were desperate to learn.

“I look at the student body here collectively – and sometimes wonder if there is a similar urgency to learn. You are the elite – your parents can afford to send you to a school like this. Australia has one of the highest standards of living in the world; you are among the most privileged in the world. That privilege and opportunity carries with it a great responsibility.”

Mr Collins reminded the boys about gender and consent: “Firstly, ask yourself, do I think I am I entitled? Meaning –  I deserve this due to my privileged position in society. Secondly, ask yourself, what do I understand about consent: what does consent mean? It means listening, respect, understanding, and believing.

“You need to ask yourself these questions because you need to understand yourself, because you are the most important person here and you have a responsibility to use this wonderful opportunity of a Trinity education to make a difference. Dare to Dream… do something significant!

“I would never have imagined, when I was your age, that I would build an orphanage in Zimbabwe and provide an education to over 100 children. I was an average student who did not really know how to study. I did not have people around me showing me how to study or to provide me with the wide variety of opportunities that you all have here.

The young man from Zimbabwe who dreamed to go further than his eyes could see? He now has a computer repair business and runs computer studies classes at the orphanage on Sunday after church. The other student is now completing a law degree and will return to Victoria Falls to work and serve his community. That is a huge achievement for them, orphans with no support or hope except an overseas donor, someone who gave them hope. They thrived on that small amount of belief. So, ask yourself, how far do you want to go with all the support you have here?

“Don’t leave it until year 11 to begin trying. Start right away. You will never regret it; but you will regret it if you don’t start.”

Mr Collins, on behalf of Trinity Grammar School, past, present and future, thank you.

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