New arts foundation launches

Founder Leslee Stradford and artist-in-residence Claude Lawrence pose in the June Howes Stradford Foundation studio, 5438 S. Ingleside Ave. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff Writer

The June Howes Stradford Foundation held its first public event on Sunday at 5438 S. Ingleside Ave., a townhouse remodeled to contain galleries, apartments and studio space for an artists’ residency program.

It is a tribute to its late namesake, an Englishwoman who immigrated to Hyde Park and had a long career as an interior designer at stores like Accent Design and Wall and Window.

“Most of her adult life she spent here,” said her daughter, artist and Foundation founder Leslee Stradford, who splits time between the neighborhood and the East Bay region of California. “Having been in the arts and following her lead, I decided that what I needed that what I needed to do was … to create an exhibition space that artists could use for residency — that there could be other artists who didn’t have the opportunity to work independently, and to be able to be away from their normal work environments.”

Residencies will last for one, three or six months; they can be sponsored either independently or by colleges or other organizations.

“We have artists, probably will be applying who are relatively new, sort of novices, who really want to experiment [and] find out what their style is, and I think there are other artists … who really haven’t had a chance to work on their own and have space and not worry about having funds for their expenses,” Stradford said, later adding that the residencies will be open to curators, dancers and writers, too.

“I think many African-American artists’ works, and people of color generally, have not been represented in most museums until just relatively recently,” she added. At present, the Foundation’s galleries are displaying works by AfriCOBRA collective artist Napoleon Jones-Henderson, native South Sider Richard Hunt and photographer Adger Cowans.

Artist and jazz musician Claude Lawrence is the Foundation’s first resident, working mostly on abstract, figurative work.

“I don’t do commissions,” he said. “I do what comes out of my head, my heart, whatever.” He called the residency program fantastic for its freedom and “opportunity to just to concentrate on your work, so the promise is fulfilled.”

Stradford’s long-term goals are to provide $1,000 stipends for the artists and to open another site in her mother’s ancestral Norwich, Norfolk, in the East of England. She hopes to be able to fund artists “who want an international experience” to go there. Fundraising has begun in earnest, though there is no endowment yet; Stradford said she hopes to be able to offer rentable space and collect corporate donations.

The Foundation’s galleries are open by appointment at jhs.artsfoundation@gmail.com.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com