Newport News teacher building bridges — with beetles

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News science teacher has found a wonderful way to combine her passion for the arts, and a love of all-things beetles, and come up with a fun and educational outing for the whole family.

Dr. Marjorie Wallace has painted more than 100 of the roly-poly, creepy-crawley critters for a new exhibit now at Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center on Wickham Avenue.

Wallace, who teaches science at Warwick High school, is the star of the show called: “Bridging Beetles and Bugs With Human Existence.”

“The Downing Gross had wanted to do a year of Bridges and Bridging Gaps. And my understanding of bridges, I’m originally from Brooklyn New York, so, I put in a bridge that everybody would understand, says Dr. Wallace, referring, of course, to the landmark Brooklyn Bridge.

As Wallace stood in front of one of her massive paintings, she almost disappeared in the explosion of colorful bugs, wrapping around, of all things, a bridge. The large canvas hung on a gallery wall behind her.

“All around the nation, we have insects,” gesturing to the colorful portrayals on canvas. “We’ve got lady beetles over here eating aphids, and they help protect our plants.”

Some Newport News former elementary and middle school students may remember Dr. Wallace as “The Beetle Teacher” from her “Lady Bug” show years ago.

“The ‘Lady Bugs’ allowed the teachers to look at symbiosis, to look at metamorphosis, and the diversity of insects in the world,” Wallace said. “When I was up by Passage Middle School I actually found the body of one of these Hercules beetles out in the woods when they started making the roads. These are beetles that are right here around us. And that guy was about 3 inches tall and 2 inches wide!”

Wallace hopes people will come out to Downing Gross and see the exhibit, and look for beetles like the ones in their backyard. And, maybe, after the exhibit, we’ll “understand that their existence helps us exist today.”

You can check out “Bridging Beetles and Bugs with Human Existence” now at Downing Gross Cultural Art Center until Friday. But you can meet Dr. Wallace, Saturday, Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the center for a closing reception.