By Jim Nowlan
Don’t forget the reception honoring Betty Hoy for her decades of unstinting service to Bradford, to be held this Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Center on the main drag in that community.
Chuck Levesque was a student of mine in graduate school at the U. of I. in the 1980s. He went on to become a lawyer, a foreign service officer in Brazil and Albania, a housing agency official in Chicago, and now CEO of a Catholic social service agency based in Chicago, but with locations across the country, which works to get the homeless off the streets and into productive lives.
A city boy, Chuck has always had a hankering to live the small-town life, so a couple of years ago he looked in our area for a weekend home and settled on Henry, “Best little town by a dam site.”
He bought a modest home there and renovated it (Catholic non-profits don’t pay a lot, but Chuck has never cared about having money).
Recently, under Chuck’s inspiration and leadership, that town provided a three-week artist-in-residency program for two young artists, both from the U. of I.
I went to the reception in the studio building on the main street, created in vacant space, which capped off the students’ stay in Henry and gave everyone a chance to see the really fine art they had produced.
Several score townsfolk came to the reception to munch on cake and punch, socialize and get to know the delightful artists, Jocelyn, an undergraduate from Chicago, and Austin, a graduate student from somewhere in the suburbs. And of course talk about art, even though most of us there know little about it.
It was a nice evening.
Thinking this might be a great idea for Stark County sometime, I asked Chuck what it cost? He said they paid tiny stipends to the artists, even less for art supplies, and that the artists stayed, respectively, with families in the community.
Chuck said the total cost was about $1,000, but I don’t see how they did it for so little.
Chuck said that in advance of the residency, he sent out notices to many of the colleges and universities in Illinois to notify them of how to apply.
A committee in Henry then selected the two artists who came to town.
Anyway, this might be something we could do in Stark County.
The artists could use the old high-ceilinged Odd Fellows Hall in the building where I live in Toulon, which would make a terrific artist’s studio, and they could live with local folks.
We could cap off their stay with a reception downstairs in the Newsroom Bistro, but we would have wine, with Fulvio Zerla serving up some of his nice vintages.
Anyway, an idea to think about. It came off nicely in Henry, thanks to my friend Chuck.
By the way, he has invited me to join him later this summer for a musical at the theater festival in Princeton. If you haven’t driven up for that, it’s also great fun. Talented young thespians and singers, just out of college, many yearning to become professionals, put on a medley of lively shows and comedies during the summer.
It’s called Festival56. The phone is (815) 879-5656. Check it out.
Elmwood native Karl Taylor, of Washington, IL is another old friend doing fascinating things.
A retired English professor and college fundraiser, Karl has always been captivated by the late Nelson Dean Jay, another Elmwood native who preceded Karl and me by about two generations.
Nelson Dean Jay is a small-town boy who made it to the summit of life. After working his way through Knox College, Dean (I think he was called Dean, but will have to check with Karl) went into banking.
He ended up on Pershing’s staff in WWI, became the head of the House of Morgan (huge international banking outfit) in Paris, dined with the likes of Charles Lindbergh and most of the royalty of Europe.
The New York Times reported that few businessmen in Europe made a major decision without first consulting Nelson Dean Jay.
Dean Jay participated in the Bilderberg Conference after WWII, where a very select group of world leaders charted the future of post-War Europe. The list goes on.
Anyway, Karl has for years worked on a biography of Dean Jay, and has interviewed Jay descendants on their fancy estates on Long Island and elsewhere. The project has now morphed into the strong possibility of a multi-art series on PBS.
I think the key to this story is Karl’s indefatigable persistence in pursuing his quest for something important about this key player in world politics, who just happened to come from Elmwood, Illinois.
By Jim Nowlan