Many years ago, I was invited to an art exhibition at a private club by a friend. I thought it was an interesting venue for an art show but did not think much of it until I walked through the doors of this majestic building. Situated in the Loop area of Chicago, the Union League Club is a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue at Jackson Boulevard and Federal, across the street from the Federal Building. It is in an important neighborhood. A neighborhood where history is being made on a daily basis.
In reading about the history of the Club, I learned that it traces its roots back to the time of the Civil War in 1962 when a group of 11 men came together in Pekin, Illinois (along the Illinois River) to form the first council of the Union League of America. They soon began to focus on providing medical supplies, nurses and advocating for the abolition of slavery. These were people who cared deeply about their community, their country and the freedoms provided by our constitution.
The history of the Union League Club is so vast and profound that I am in awe of the accomplishments of the membership over the last 140 years. Their original principle to support the arts and beautification of the city was an integral part of the mission of this venerable institution. The ULCC not only supports cultural institutions, but has become one in its own right. Since 1886, the Club has collected nearly 800 works of art, from Claude Monet to Grant Wood, Ivan Albright, John James Audubon, Hollis Sigler, Roger Brown, Richard Hunt, Barbara Crane, Ed Paschke and Theaster Gates to name a few. The Club was named by the Chicago Tribune "The Other Art Institute." For many years I could only have hoped to be included in this stellar roster of artists the Union League Club has exhibited.
As early as 1893, Chicago gained recognition as a world-class city when it hosted the World's Columbian Exposition. Daniel Burnham, an early member of the Club, invited 10 members of the ULCC into the 13 member Columbian Exposition board. The Club members were instrumental in having Chicago named as the site of the exposition by the United States Congress. Since that time, ULCC Members have played a role in establishing many of the city's cultural organizations, including Orchestra Hall and the Field Museum. They also founded The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.
I love what this club stands for. These are people who care. They care about their community, their country and the world. It's not just a good old boys club. There are many of those. Throughout the years, the membership has "upheld the sacred obligations of citizenship, promoted honesty and efficiency in government, supported cultural institutions and the beautification of the city and supported our nation’s military and their families. Through the efforts of its dynamic membership, the Club has been a catalyst for action in nonpartisan political, economic and social arenas – focusing its leadership and resources on important social issues."
Speaking of important social issues, the Union League Club has honored me by showcasing my paintings that bring attention to the millions of pounds of plastic weighing down our oceans, killing our marine life and releasing toxins into the air we breathe. Water is an essential part of our existence. It IS the essence of life. Our earth is made up of 70% water and our bodies are made up of 70% water. I wonder if that really is a coincidence.
We are the caretakers of our planet. It is not enough to think on local, national or global terms anymore. I believe we must think in universal terms. Because if our planet goes to hell, so will we. I love our earth, our oceans, our forests and our beautiful cities. I want to do whatever I can to make my little space a better place to live. And if each one of us lives a conscious life, caring for our actions and being an example to our children, our friends and neighbors, maybe they, too, will do the same.
"The Union League Club of Chicago believes in the freedom to choose a lifestyle and in paving a path for a better city and a better nation. This freedom exists through the support of three foundations, maintaining a public affairs department that pushes for change in local, state and federal government, and collecting and showcasing some of the finest Midwest and American art in the country."
I have waited for many years for this opportunity. Please join me in celebration for the opening reception of my solo exhibition I FLOW LIKE WATER at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday, October 5th, 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Third Floor Gallery located at 65 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago. The exhibition will run through the end of October.
Take a look at this special on WTTW Chicago Tonight about the stellar art collection of the Union League Club of Chicago.