Chicago Architecture

The kindly introduced me as the Illinois Artist Laureate. In the row in front (the man with the regal white hair) is acclaimed Chicago architect, Dirk Lohan.

They kindly introduced me as the Illinois Artist Laureate. In the row in front (the man with the regal white hair) is acclaimed Chicago architect, Dirk Lohan. My niece Linda, seated next to me, attended with me.

At the invitation of Karen Burnett, a long time friend and a member of Team Kay,  I attended SOAR’s (Streeterville Organization of Active Residents) 40th Anniversary at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday, September 25th. This annual benefit, called BLUEPRINTs, helps to raise money for the Streeterville neighborhood association in Chicago and honors those who aid in bettering communities.

Nearly 200 residents and other Streeterville neighborhood stakeholders came to celebrate with honorary co-chairs Alderman Brian Hopkins (Ward 2) and Alderman Brendan Reilly (Ward 42) lending their congratulations to the crowd. A program featured Emcee Felicia Dechter (Skyline newspapers), President Gail Spreen, Benefit Chair Karen Burnett, MCA Chief Operating Officer Teresa de Guzman, Past President Betty Eaton—and award winners Helen Dunbeck (Betty G. Eaton Spirit) and Dirk Lohan, architect (Vision Into Reality.)

A nice photo of myself on the right and my friend Karen on the far left.

A nice photo of myself on the far right, the night’s honoree Helen Dunbeck, and my friend Karen on the far left.

I donated my painting,”Old Main” as an auction item. This group was honoring architects (among others) who help to shape the city and neighborhood. And this painting shows some of the best of old Chicago architecture.

Me with the painting I donated,

Me with the painting I donated, “Old Main”.

This painting was a study of the old Armour Mission, and it (like me) has quite a history. It was founded by meat packing czar, Philip Armour, who then took his mission and made it into one of the first technical schools at the turn of the century, called the Armour Institute. This school featured architecture as a course of study and produced many of our great architects. It would eventually morph into the Illinois Institute of Technology and this building is still present on one of the campuses.  And to round this whole story out, one of my old art students, John Holabird’s father was one of those great architects that husbanded the nascent beginnings of ITT.

My student, John Holabird's painting he donated, painted in my class.

My student, John Holabird’s painting he donated, painted in my class.

Just talking about architecture conjures so many stories of the great architects of the last century. Who were the great architects of the day ??? …grab your hats, their identity will blow you away.

The year is 1895. Among the great architects involved in the school were Daniel Burnham, John Root , Louis J. Millet, Alfred Alschuler, Louis Skidmore, and John Holabird.

This is enough for today.  Follow me as we are headed for stories on John Holabird, Mees Van der Rohe, his grandson Dirk Lohan, and Streeterville, all springing from the SOAR event. Stay tuned.

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About Illinois Artist Laureate Kay Smith

After completing my studies at the School of the Art Institute, I worked as an illustrator. As the 1976 Bicentennial approached there was a fever of interest in American history. In 1971, I was asked to illustrate a book on the American Revolutionary War period which required me to travel to historic locations to paint the actual scenes. As my travels crossed and crisscrossed the paths of the patriots, I entered their lives and was forever caught in the inescapable skeins of history and was thrust into the role of historical painter. What began as a single assignment has grown over the past 40-plus years into the largest collection of American historical-site paintings ever created by a single artist. To see these historical works and to learn more about The American Legacy Collection, please visit my website at: www.kaysmithartist.com. The American Legacy Collection is a dramatic panorama of this country's historical places and its defining moments. My original watercolors chronicle 500 years of the American experience and preserve with an artist's palette our American heritage.

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