On the Scene
Kerry James Marshall 0

Acclaimed artist turns heads with words, too

July 26th, 2016

Kerry James Marshall’s paintings make your head turn. The Chicago artist did the same at a microphone, too.

During a dinner event celebrating The Joyce Foundation’s 20 years of funding diversity in the arts, Marshall spoke about the importance of integrating arts into schools.

His acclaimed work depicting African American life is on display at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art–the exhibition then heads to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Marshall’s a big deal and this evening’s crowd at the MCA was held rapt during a Q&A with Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding.

Marshall revealed he had volunteered this past school year at Herzl Elementary School on the city’s southwest side. He taught art as part of President Barack Obama’s Turnaround Arts program, which connects well-known artists with struggling schools.

Marshall said he asked Herzl’s principal how he could further students’ interest. Did the school need more paint-brushes or art supplies? Marshall wanted to do whatever he could to help.

“She said ‘I’ll tell you what they need. They need coats,'” recalled the Chicago artist. Art supplies are fine, he said, “but if they can’t get to school, that’s the issue.”

Marshall says he was “shocked” and spent the rest of the school year raising funds to buy coats for all 600 students. “They had them by the end of the year,” he said.

Guests burst into applause and buzzed the rest of the warm July evening talking about coats.

“He put it all into context,” said Richard Steele, host of “The Barber Shop Show” on WBEZ.

Others attendees included Joyce board members Paula Wolff and Piyush Chaudhari; Goodman Theatre Executive Director Roche Schulfer; Navy Pier civic engagement officer Michelle Boone; Chicago Sinfonietta Executive Director Jim Hirsch; Puerto Rican Arts Museum CEO Billy Ocasio; DuSable Museum CEO Perri Irmer; Black Ensemble Theatre founder Jackie Taylor; and Court Theater Executive Director Stephen Albert.

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