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The Art Luncheon

The Art Luncheon and Exhibition was one of the few times all of Hyde Park Kenwood joined together, without dissension, without numerous bosses knowing how to do it differently, simply to enjoy the area’s children and the way they perceived their community.

April 1957 we received a standard letter from Mayor Daley’s office inviting the Herald to celebrate “Clean up Week” to be held the week before spring break in the public schools. I invented a variation on cleanup: an educational program within the elementary schools on urban renewal. The Herald would encourage students to paint or draw their perceptions of urban renewal and offer prizes. I was referred to Evelyn Krackover, an imaginative and energetic superintendent of art for the district. (See Co-op photo).

Evelyn was concerned that as many students as possible be involved; that we obtain community experts to lecture students on urban renewal; that parents be involved in taking classes on field trips to observe changes in the neighborhood. Furthermore, it was not to be considered a “contest”, but an:”exhibition”.

The idea blossomed. Local organizations offered prizes – YMCA memberships, scholarships to classes at the Hyde Park Art Center, memberships to the Neighborhood Club, art supplies, gift certificates. No money was to change hands. A presentation luncheon was planned at the lake front Del Prado Hotel.. Mayor Daley himself made a brief appearance. The business and organizational community happily representative. Top awards of a $50 bond were presented to a child from each of the participating six schools. These children and their parents were guests at the luncheon.

Many of the illustration were remarkable, showing a sensitivity to demolition and construction processes and an astonishing sense of design. Others touched me deeply which depicted a child or children (usually African American) sadly sitting among debris or watching demolition of a home or apartment building.

All illustrations submitted were displayed in local merchants windows’ . An alphabetical directory of each child showing the displaying store was published in the Herald. The most complicated part of the entire festival was returning each illustration to the correct child in the correct school. Every child who submitted an illustration received a blue ribbon.

Note: The following Herald front page is typical: In addition to the Art Luncheon article, note articles on urban renewal demolition, “rebel” on Co-op board, a fire, robbery and trees.