The Community Arts Council of Kankakee County (CAC) is pleased to present the exhibition “An Inside Look at Outsider Art,” on view April 1-14. Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism, located at 356 East Merchant Street, in downtown Kankakee, IL, will host the exhibition and sale of the work of Louis S. Walker, Jr., a Kankakee County native. The exhibition grand opening will be held on Friday, April 1, from 6:30-8:15 PM, with opening remarks at 7:00 PM. Refreshments will be served. You may view the exhibit from 12:00-4:00 PM weekdays and 10:00 AM-6:00 PM on saturdays. The gallery is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.
When Louis was 8 years old (the eldest of four children), his mother moved the family from Chicago to Spinning Wheel Road and the Forest Valley Church community in Pembroke Township. That’s when Louis began to draw. He didn’t finish high school and in the late 70s returned to Chicago and began his version of outsider art, which has been described as raw, vibrant, geometric, patterning, expressing an African-American urban perspective. As Louis explained: “A dream will be an echo in my brain that triggers a drawing which comes into the world because it seeps away from me through my hands onto the paper.” Louis was tragically injured in a hit-and-run accident in Minneapolis, MN, leaving him 70 percent disabled. He returned to Kankakee County and resides at Momence Meadows Nursing Center.
The Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism believes the art industry and community provide opportunities for autistic persons to achieve and be productive in society. Janice Miller, the Gallery’s Director, recognizes Louis’ “naïve” art as especially inspiring to her autistic artists.
Irving Zucker, a retired Chicago Public School teacher and arts-in-education activist, began purchasing Louis’ art more than 40 years ago, and has borrowed some previously sold pieces to present, along with those that will be for sale at this art show. In 1988 Louis was introduced to internationally renowned mural artist Keith Haring when Irving arranged for Haring to come to Chicago as artist-in-residence for CPS and the Museum of Contemporary Art and create a 488-foot long mural in Grant Park along with 500+ public school students. Louis’ pieces have sold for as much as $950. Irving will donate 20 percent of proceeds to the CAC and Prairie States Legal Services.