An array of artwork from those who have passed through the doors of Kokomo High School was featured in a new exhibit titled “Legacy Matters” last week at the school.
The purpose of the exhibit, said its curator and art teacher Alyson Hatcher-Kendall, was to inspire current students to continue to pursue art long after graduation and to show attendees the legacy that others have left behind in terms of their artwork.
“Legacy, to me, does matter. You want to do something that other people can remember, and for this, it matters to me because I want the kids to be inspired and think, ‘OK, art doesn’t have to stop after high school.’ Even if you don’t continue doing art professionally, that it doesn’t mean that you have to stop creating,” Hatcher-Kendall said.
A call was put out for submissions this summer, and dozens came in. The show features approximately 20 artists, including graduates from decades ago, former teachers and administrators, and current students and staff, and a variety of styles, such as prints, mixed media, paintings, and ceramics.
The oldest piece in the show came from the family of 1945 graduate Robert Wall, who died last July at age 91. The still life was one of Wall’s earliest paintings and depicted a plate of fruit, a teacup, and teapot. Wall worked as an artist most of his life. He retired from Delco Electronics after 47 years as the manager of the marketing art department where he worked to design company promotional materials. He designed Delco’s Christmas cards, mostly paintings scenes from Kokomo and central Indiana for them.
After retirement, Wall worked at Kokomo Sign Pro and later purchased the business. Many of his signs still are on display around Kokomo.
Another piece that Hatcher-Kendall was proud to have in the exhibit was a portrait of the late Megan McConnell, painted by Mike Milligan, a 1990 KHS grad. McConnell, a longtime employee at Kokomo Schools, began her career in 1997 as a third-grade teacher and ended as the director of education technology. She died Jan. 7, 2019, at age 44.
McConnell’s family also submitted a piece by her, a mosaic titled “Memories” that was displayed next to her portrait.
Milligan attended the show during opening night, and he was excited to see a painting by former KHS art teacher Deb Edwards called “Japanese Maple.”
“I’ve been trying to obtain that piece for probably 10 years,” said Milligan, who said he first saw it years ago when it was on display at the former Sycamore Marketplace. However, the purchase price of $900 was out of his budget at the time.
He took another shot at trying to obtain the painting later when Edwards’ son was getting married. Milligan offered to perform with his band at the wedding for free in exchange for the painting. To his disappointment, he said Edwards politely declined the offer. He laughed, saying he remains hopeful that the large painting will be his one day.
Madison Reed, a 2017 KHS graduate, also had a mixed media piece in the show called “Impact.” Reed is a junior at Indiana Wesleyan University where she’s majoring in art. Her piece, she said, was a tribute to KHS for the support she received in pursuing the arts while in high school.
“It’s about how those experiences helped prepare me to jump out into the world,” she said. “It’s how they really equipped me and prepared me before sending me into the art world and how those skills allowed me to change the world with my art.”
Other artists in the show included the late Kevin Sheridan, a 1990 graduate; Becky Stoltzfus, a history teacher; Leslie Lewis, an English teacher; Izzy Summers, a senior; Ashlynne Harris, a sophomore; Tarja Harney, a 2007 graduate and adjunct art professor at IU Kokomo; and American Killian, a 1995 graduate.
Angela Blessing, principal at KHS, said she was impressed with the quality of art in the show.
“I’m amazed. When the artwork started pouring in, I was blown away. Just seeing the people and whole families who want to come in and see the artwork that was contributed, I love it. I love that our staff and community have embraced the idea of legacy, and they recognize that it’s not just in athletics. It’s in the fine arts world as well,” Blessing said.