Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination sparked outrage on Chicago’s West Side, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum revisits artists at the center of neighborhood change. The Best Side: The Art and Soul of Jackie Hetherington, features works of a local, West Side artist who—just seven months after the 1968 uprising—co-founded Art and Soul, a unique neighborhood center located in two storefronts at 3742 West 16th Street in the North Lawndale neighborhood. An innovative collaboration between communities and museums, Art and Soul was one of a number of initiatives created by the Conservative Vice Lords, Inc., an organization that promoted self-determination on the city’s West Side.
The Best Side presents woodblock prints the artist created in Chicago in the 1980s depicting scenes from Chicago’s West Side. The show reveals an important lost chapter in the artistic history of Chicago and the West Side—one that pushes against the prevailing narrative of the West Side and seeks to underscore the mantra that has been uttered for decades by residents of the community: The West Side is the best side.”
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum acknowledges the generous contributions of Ann Zelle, a photographer, sculptor, arts administrator and former staff at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 1968, where she was involved in the formation of Art & Soul. All of the works in the exhibition are gifts or loans from Ann Zelle. A number of reprints of her photographs are exhibited with her permission.
The Artist: Jackie Hetherington
Jackie Hetherington (1935-1989) was born in Chicago in 1935. His father, James, came from Alabama, and his mother, Katie Jones Hetherington, came from Tennessee. His father had been a cook in hobo camps along the railroad; his mother, “Sister Kate,” ministered to a series of churches and to Illinois prisons.
As young teens, Jackie and his brother Daniel (Danny) rode their bikes from North Lawndale to downtown’s Art Institute of Chicago where they took art classes on scholarship. Jackie continued to study art and printmaking for the rest of his life and he and Danny gave away, bartered, and sold their artwork wherever they lived.
Neither brother ever had an exhibition of his work—until now.
Jackie’s work ranged from portraits to local cityscapes; paintings of pop culture figures to "8 pages" (hand drawn versions of popular comic books sold on the streets). He worked at many trades, including freelance design and sales. He owned his own barbershop for five years, and cut hair on the side wherever he lived, including at a new, experimental art center he co-founded in North Lawndale, called Art & Soul.
Jackie was also committed to educating young people. He taught art, but also boxing and wrestling at West Side community centers and schools. In 1967-69 he worked with the Conservative Vice Lords, Inc. - an organization that was then an offshoot of the Vice Lords street gang— the then-emergent Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and an Advisory Council of Community Organizations to develop and find funding for the Art & Soul artistic workshop and gallery space. As founding Director of Art & Soul, Jackie was in charge of administration, staff, program development, and community outreach.
In 1970, Jackie moved to Washington, DC, to serve as program consultant and designer for Youth Organizations United. He stayed in Washington for ten years, studying visual communications at the Corcoran School of Art, working as Assistant Manager of the Corcoran Gallery's Sales Shop, and working as a screen printer for a big company which printed, among other things, all the signs and maps for Washington's new Metro system. In 1980, he returned home to Chicago and worked as a screen printer until his death in 1989.
(Biography Source: Ann Zelle )
The Best Side: The Art and Soul of Jackie Hetherington is a part of Jane Addams Hull-House’s Making the West Side Project. Making the West Side: Community Conversations on Neighborhood an ongoing project that brings together scholars, activists, neighborhood residents, and other stakeholders to investigate the history of neighborhood change on Chicago’s West Side and connect those histories to contemporary issues and concerns.
The Best Side runs as a compatible show with Claiming Space: Creative Grounds and Freedom Summer School, a collaborative exhibition with artists, educators and students that explores the transformation of public school space amidst the backdrop of depopulation, divestment and school closures on Chicago’s West Side.