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A Treasure of Pleasant Memories from Artist John Hudak

Portrait of John V Hudak by Stuart C Pearson

Portrait of John V Hudak by Stuart C Pearson

Amidst the dizzying speed of life today it is comforting to some to fondly reflect on simpler times and the memory of days gone by. This isn't a matter of sappy wishful thinking but rather a way to re-align our thinking about what is and is not important. Joliet artist, philanthropist and public servant John Vincent Hudak (1917-1990) was one of these thoughtful people, his artwork clearly demonstrating this premise.

Gallery 7, 116 N. Chicago St. Suite 102 in downtown Joliet, presents John Hudak's Junction, a Retrospective, a showing of works in pen and ink and watercolor. The exhibit will run May 3 through June 2 with an opening reception on Saturday May 5 from 6-8 pm. The public is cordially invited to both the exhibit and reception at no charge.

The first in a planned series of retrospective exhibitions spotlighting well known Joliet artists, this exhibit was conceived when a patron came to Gallery 7 with two watercolor paintings by Hudak asking for help in finding a deserving entity to donate them to. These two paintings, along with a collection of others loaned from the Hudak family, Joliet Community Hospice, St. Patrick's Church and individuals will make up the exhibit, presenting an excellent representation of Mr. Hudak's work. None of the exhibited work by Hudak will be for sale.

John Hudak was born in Chicago and lived in LaSalle, Illinois for 15 years before the family moved to Joliet. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and served as a supply Sergeant with the Army Air Corps for the duration of World War II. While stationed at Baton Rouge, LA he began to study art at Louisiana State University and practiced sketching charcoal portraits of patients at the base hospital and G.I.'s at the U.S.O. After returning to Joliet in 1945, Hudak earned a BA from Lewis University, studied at the American Academy of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago and earned a MA from Northern Illinois University. Mr. Hudak ran his free-lance commercial and fine art studio and gallery for many years in downtown Joliet; first in the Youngs Building, then at 19 E. Jefferson St.–"Hudak's Junction" by the old Coney Island hot dog place on "hash row" and eventually from his home at 913 Woods Ave. Mr. Hudak also taught art at Lewis University, University of St. Francis, Joliet Catholic High School, Chaney-Monge School, through the Joliet Artist's League and privately.

Beginning in 1951, "Big John", as the inmates called him, taught art classes for 22 years at Stateville Correctional Center, organizing the first prison art show and sale in 1965 which drew 2000 people. He began similar programs at Dwight and Pontiac Correctional Centers. Occasionally former art students being released from prison and having no place to go were generously offered a spot on the couch in Hudak's studio to sleep until they could find other accommodations. He designed the Joliet Corporate Seal adopted in 1966, visible now on the city flag. He participated in countless local, national and inter-national art shows winning many awards, most notably from the highly acclaimed American Watercolor Society of which he was a member.

Beyond his art career, to punctuate his love of nature and the outdoors, Mr. Hudak served for 14 years as a Joliet Park District Commissioner, following in the footsteps of his father who managed the Inwood Golf Course for 19 years. Love for Joliet and its history brought about a project he was working on with the city at the time of his death; a series of paintings of Joliet landmarks including the Rialto Square Theater and Union Station.

Deeply religious, quiet, loving, generous, civic minded, family oriented—are words used by Donna Hudak, John's sister-in-law to describe this fine artist and humanitarian. Just look to the beauty of his paintings which reflect these traits where he often used images of his own family members and their homes. Find these traits reflected in the village church softened by heavy snow, neighbors made joyous at the sight of a huge Christmas tree ablaze with golden light, deep cool green landscapes, a winter's night carriage ride, portraits of home and family. We are encouraged and reminded to hold these images close to our own hearts. Once when interviewed, John Hudak said "…I cling to a certain period of time in my life with it's treasure of pleasant memories and relationships from which I draw, upon which to dwell…"

Gallery 7 is operated by a group of local artists, and is celebrating its 5th year bringing exciting artwork to Joliet and the southwest suburbs. It is located in downtown Joliet next to the historic Rialto Theater. Admission to the gallery is free and it is open to the public. Usual hours of business are Monday-Friday 11-2 and first Saturdays of each month from 10-Noon. You are encouraged to call 815 726-1840 for more information.

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