#147: Kankakee’s Sculptural Heritage, The Barnard Gallery’s Story

Hello, Kankakee County and our listeners from far and wide! It’s time for another dive into the rich tapestry of our local history and culture. This episode brings us an enchanting narrative entangled with the artistry of the past and the continuous efforts to preserve it. So let’s unwrap the layers of history and art that interweave to form the legacy of a boy-turned-master sculptor, George Gray Barnard, and his ties to Kankakee.

The Echoes of Artistic Genius in Kankakee

Embarking on this auditory journey, our host Jake LaMore and esteemed guests, Jory and Jack, invite us to step into the hallowed halls of the Kankakee County Museum. With the ambient soundscape of history surrounding us, the trio opens a window to the past where art doesn’t only mimic life but enriches it.

Art Out of Bounds: The Sculptural Sagas

George Barnard’s saga is etched deeply within the legacy of Kankakee. As Jake points out, “George Gray Barnard spent part of his boyhood here in Kankakee, where his father served as a traveling minister. His childhood friends included notable local figures like Frank McGrew, and Roger Sherman.”

But the true treasure of this episode lies in the unveiling of Barnard’s artistic journey. From early displays of his impending greatness, marked by the first carving from a barn, to his revered plaster studies—the preface to his colossal marble and bronze works—guest Jory shares, “These pieces are the foundation, the mold from which greatness was cast. To see them is to witness the birth of Barnard’s vision.”

The Grit Behind The Gallery

Our guests delve into the history of the Barnard Gallery, highlighting the audacious efforts to salvage Barnard’s studio plasters. Jack notes how “in the 1980s, the University of Delaware’s acquisition catalyzed a movement. The fundraisers, the passion, the community came together, and by December 1991, the Barnard Gallery was born.”

A Sanctuary of Creativity Preserved

Treading the delicate balance between preservation and exhibition, the museum’s status as a climate-controlled sanctuary ensures that George Barnard’s plaster studies endure. As Jack explains, “Dusting is the only treatment these old fellows need now, ensuring they are here for generations to gravitate towards.”

The Journey of the Lost Hands: A Tale to Reflect Upon

One cannot miss the peculiar tale of Lincoln’s hands, sculpted by Barnard, which found their way back after a mysterious theft. Jory recounts, “Returned with possibly a tinge of remorse, they were found in a bowling bag at a church!” Now securely locked away, the hands symbolize the community’s continuing bond with its artistic heritage.

Art in Kankakee’s Veins

The conversation takes a heartfelt turn as our guests discuss Barnard’s connection to the Central school and his correspondences with friends from Kankakee. As Jack passionately states, “This town runs in his veins, evident in every work, every stroke of genius that came out of his studio.”

A Final Word on Our Artistic Tapestry

As our episode draws to a close, the shared laughter and profound musings remind us that the Kankakee County Museum is not just a building. It’s a beacon where history meets artistry, where the past is tenderly nestled in the present. It’s a place where, as Jory quotes Barnard, “students and all who wish may come and drink deep of beauty and inspiration.”

Let’s Keep the Past Alive

We invite you to continue exploring the wonders of the Kankakee County History and Art Museum. Check out their website and social platforms for the latest events and exhibits. Let us sustain this sanctuary where heritage breathes and inspires.

Our Collective Custody of Culture

This has been a compelling stroll through the memories and masterpieces that dot the landscape of the Kankakee County Museum. If you’ve been stirred by the story of George Gray Barnard’s link with our community, ensure you’re subscribed to the Kankakee Podcast.

A deep thank you to our Patreon supporters, who contribute to the vibrancy of our local narrative. Your passion fuels our mission to shed light on the many stories Kankakee has tucked away.

Until we meet again, this is Jake LaMore, your host, bidding you adieu. Keep cherishing the art and history that weave the fabric of our Kankakee County. Stay tuned for more enlightening tales from our neck of the woods!

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