Wednesday, March 28, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Maywood artist Jesse Howard during the March 22 unveiling of his work, “Rennie in Rhapsody,” at the Oak Park Public Library. | Alexa Rogals/Wednesday Journal
Maywood artist Jesse Howard was a patron at the Oak Park Public Library’s main branch long before his work was included in the library’s permanent collection last week.
“To me, this library is like a cultural center,” Howard said during a March 22 unveiling ceremony for his work, “Rennie in Rhapsody,” which will be displayed on the library’s second floor.
“I’ve been coming here for 10 or 15 years,” he said. “This place is incredible. They’ve always taken care of me.”
Library staff member Kelly Knowles said during the unveiling that library officials “ask that every work in our permanent collection be enduring, intriguing and challenging.”
Theodore N. Foss, the library board vice president, said that a committee comprising library board members, staff and community members were responsible for vetting Howard’s work, which was purchased through the library’s art fund.
“We had a little bit of money and we wanted something that really spoke to the values that Kelly talked about,” Foss told the crowd of roughly 60 people who attended the ceremony.
Oak Park Public Library officials unveil Jesse Howard’s “Rennie in Rhapsody” during a ceremony at the library on March 22. | Alexa Rogals
“We looked at Jesse’s work at an exhibition he had late last year at the University Club in downtown Chicago, then we visited his [home studio in Maywood],” he said.
The Howard acquisition comes as the library is focusing on conserving and protecting the roughly two dozen works of art that are in its permanent collection — most of which were purchased between 2004 and 2006.
Jim Madigan, the library’s deputy director, said the collection’s total value was estimated at $775,000 when it was appraised last year.
Howard is at least the second artist with Maywood ties whose work is in the collection. Some years ago, Geraldine McCullough, the famous African American sculptress who lived in Maywood before moving to Oak Park, donated a mask that she created to the library.
Geraldine McCullough’s “Mask,” which the artist donated to the Oak Park Public Library before her death. | Oak Park Public Library
McCullough is the woman behind the “Phoenix Rising” sculpture, located directly behind the Maywood police station on Oak Street in Maywood.
During last week’s unveiling, Howard said that Rennie” was inspired by the black women in his life who struggled through various indignities while keeping their dignity intact.
“First, let me give a shout-out to ‘Enough is Enough,’ #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter,” he said during his introductory remarks. VFP
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