J.R. Kortman open 7 days a week in Decmber until Christmas: Mo-Fr 11-6, Sa 11-5, Su 1-5

Two Downtown Rockford historic buildings which will going under transformative renovation have bee selected as this years new ornaments added to the Rockford Landmark Ornament collection at J.R. Kortman Cents for Design at 107 North Main Street.
    The Iconic Building (formerly the Rockford News Tower) and the Times Theater are now part this of unique collection of hand painted ornaments that have been created for J.R. Kortman of local landmarks since 1997.
    “Both the Iconic Building and the Times Theater have exciting proposed plans to be reenergised into venues that will be great entertainment and cultural assets to our Downtown that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike,” said Doc Slafkosky, co-owner at J.R. Kortman.  ‘We thought this was a perfect time to recognize these two Art Deco inspired landmarks.”
    Other recent additions to the Landmark Collection include the Elks Lodge, the Embassy Suites Hotel, Coronado Theatre and the Rockford Armory. All are on Main Street and are official Registered National Landmark.
    Alexander Liberman’s “Symbol” sculpture in Sinnissippi Park along the river is by far the best selling ornament of all other buildings and places that have been made into ornaments since we started commissioning them back in 1997, said Slafkosky.  “It really has become Rockford’s definitive landmark!”
    Rockford Landmark Ornament Collection also includes the Prairie Street Brewhouse, East and West High Schools, St. Anthony Church, two views of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House, a special edition of Memorial Hall, the Beattie Park Gazebo, the Faust Landmark Building, the “Y” Log Lodge, Burpee Natural History Museum, Anderson Gardens, and Midway Theater Building.
       In addition to the Swedish Historical Society’s Erlander Home, other historic houses in the collection include the  “Limestone Mansion,” home to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, and the “Cobblestone House,” located at 2127 Broadway, one of Rockford’s oldest houses.    
    All the Landmark ornament images are individually hand-painted on the inside of a glass sphere, utilizing an ancient Chinese technique originally applied to “snuff” bottles. Each collectable ornament is a miniature work of art.

25 Rockford artists celebrate Symbol’s 45th anniversary in Kortman Gallery “red” holiday exhibit

The late Alexander Liberman was well renowned in the world of art and design. Besides being  art director for Vogue Magazine, he was an accomplished artists in his own right, creating both paintings and sculptures that are now in collections in places around the world. And one of those places is Rockford!
His iconic “Symbol” sculpture is celebrating its 45th anniversary as a major piece of public art. It had a controversial start when it was placed on the east end of the State Street mall, dedicated in 1978 by Liberman, himself. Although, controversy still haunts the piece, most Rockfordians have developed an acceptance, and many, even an affection for this grand work of art.
In many of his works, Liberman used the color red…a specific red he created known as Liberman Red…which is the authentic color of “Symbol.” 
To celebrate the sculpture’s 45th anniversary, the Kortman Gallery has invited 25 Rockford artists to create a piece of art utilizing Liberman Red in their work. The exhibition which opens Friday, November 17th in the Kortman Gallery is appropriately titled, “Liberman Red.”
“I was intrigued about the theme of the show that is just about a color,” said John Deill, one of the featured artists in the exhibition. “Color can be both  captivating and controversial, since everyone perceives colors differently. For instance, some people see “Symbol” as red, while others see it as more orange. However, there is no right or wrong when it comes to perception.”
It is this relative and personal perception of color that was the inspiration behind the theme of the exhibition according to Doc Slafkosky, gallery director.
“Rather than have the exhibit specifically about Symbol, we thought we would not limit the subject matter to an object, but more of a concept…and the color red is in itself engaging, if not exciting,” said Slafkosky. “And Liberman used the color boldly, and often in his art. And he did have a specific formula for his ‘red’.”
“We thought it would interesting to let each artist create a piece of work that presents their interpretation of what Liberman Red looks like, with no restrictions on the imagery,” said Slafkosky. “Consequently the artists did not have to include images of “Symbol” in their art work, just the color, Liberman Red. The result is a fascinating exhibition that confirms the amazing creativity and vision that each of these remarkable artists brings to this must see show!”
Participating artists include: Stephen Warde Anderson, Molly Carter, John Deill, Michelle Dorr, Drew Eurek, Fatherless, Laura Gomel , Brian Hierstein, Margret Hynes, Javier Jimenez, Lisa Jimenez, Carrie Johnson, Jeremy Klonicki, Norm Knott, R. Scott Long, Jenny Mathews, Nancie King Mertz, Valerie Olafson, Rebecca Downing Pelley, Nick Cashmere, Joe Tallman, Carmen Turner, Alison Weust, Brett Whitacre, and Kyle Wolfe. 
The opening reception for “Liberman Red” featuring works by 25 Rockford artists is Friday, November 17th from 5:30 to 9pm upstairs in the Kortman Gallery, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. This special holiday group exhibition exhibit will run through January 13th, 2024. J.R. Kortman Center for Design & Kortman Gallery are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm and Saturdays, 11am to 5pm. The opening event and gallery are free and open to the public. For more information visit www.jrkortman.com or phone 815-968-0123.

Emerging Rockford artist Dysen White exhibits expressive, urban art paintings in Kortman Gallery: Opening October 6-7

    Urban or Independent Art has spontaneous, expressive, and sometimes chaotic imagery heavily influenced by street art and graffiti. Dysen White, a young and emerging artist, paints with these same sensibilities adding his personal vision and experiences to his art.
    The results are captivating, exciting, and colorful works of art.
    White’s paintings are featured in a premier exhibition titled, “Odyssey: The Teen” which opens Friday, October 6th, Fall ArtScene, in the Kortman Gallery Downtown Rockford.
    “Artist and art educator Kyle Wolfe introduced us to Dysen’s work which immediately impressed us with its highly expressive, stimulating imagery that is both honest and energizing,” said Kortman Gallery director. “Dysen could be characterized as a naive artist, however his deliberate, yet spontaneous approach to his imagery gives his work an urbane vibe that I’m sure will mature as he continues to learn and grow as an artist.”
    Kyle Wolfe who is Dysen’s teacher at Roosevelt High School, has also become his mentor.
     “I teach digital art, but have also worked in traditional art forms,” says Kyle.  “Dysen’s artistic prowess with painting is self taught. He seems to have a compulsion for painting that is remarkable. He is a prolific artist, always creating and evolving which is refreshing to see in a person his age.”
    “Odyssey: The Teen” featuring paintings by Dysen White opening receptions are Friday, October 6th, 5:00 to 9pm and Saturday, October 7th, 3:00 to 9pm (Fall ArtScene) upstairs in the Kortman Gallery, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. His exhibit will run through November 11th. J.R. Kortman Center for Design and Kortman Gallery are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm and Saturdays, 11am to 5pm.
    The opening event and gallery are free and open to the public. For more information visit www.jrkortman.com or phone 815-968-0123.

Rockford artist Braydon Letsinger exhibits compelling portrait paintings in Kortman Gallery...opening June 30th! Exhibition runs thru September 30th

Originally pursuing a career path in criminal justice, Rockford artist Braydon Letsinger’s plans changed when he felt called to formally use and pursue his gifts of art-making. As a Studio Arts major, he has created an intriguing body of works that are featured in an exhibition with an equally intriguing title. Letsinger’s “Staring at Strangers: becoming acquainted with humanity through portraiture” opens Friday, June 30th in the Kortman Gallery.
    HIs compelling paintings combine traditional, realistic portraiture with geometric, abstract patterns in conjunction with contemporary materials like holographic film, fluorescent paint, and aluminum panels.
    “All of my work focuses on what I consider to be the most interesting, but most confusing subject – people and their inner workings,” said Letsinger. “For me, portraiture has been a way to break down barriers to more deeply understand others around me, and to begin to connect my viewers with these painted ‘strangers’ who are more similar to them than they realize.”
    Letsinger approached the Kortman Gallery more than a year ago with a portfolio of his work says gallery director, Doc Slafkosky. “The caliber of Braydon’s work showed that he was a serious, and most certainly, talented, aspiring artist,” said Slafkosky. “His unique combination of traditional realist painting with modern, colorful imagery is approachable, while still honoring the painting tradition and keeping his work relevant and fresh.”
    The majority of Letsinger’s somber-faced subjects were fellow students and faculty from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where he completed his arts degree. His captivating work utilizes the combination of classic realistic portraits of these “strangers” with abstract, geometric elements to speak into the character of his subjects and humanity as a whole.
    “Staring at Strangers” featuring paintings by Braydon Letsinger opening reception is Friday, June 30th from 5:30 to 9pm upstairs in the Kortman Gallery, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. His exhibit will run through September 30th. J.R. Kortman Center for Design & Kortman Gallery are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm and Saturdays, 11am to 5pm. The opening event and gallery are free and open to the public. For more information phone 815-968-0123.

New Art Book launch and Art Zone TV series reboot in Kortman Gallery Exhibit...now through June 17th


  “Celebrating the creative spirit of artists, artisans, and craftsman who inspire, elevate, and enrich…” These words, on the back cover of a new art book, “Collection,” by Doc Slafkosky and Jerry Kortman, express the motivation behind this colorful, “cocktail table” edition.
    The new book is a visual journal of fine art and artifacts from Rockford and beyond. It will be introduced this ArtScene weekend, April 21st & 22nd in the Kortman Gallery.  This multi media exhibition will feature art posters from works by Rockford artists in the collection, plus a vibrant video presentation of scenes from the original 1990’s Art Zone TV series.
    Works by Maggie Thienemann, Betsy Youngquist, John Libowski, Cherri Rittenhouse, Jim Julin, Jacob Polhill, Robin McCauley, Lisa Jimenez, and Brian Hierstein are some of the featured images in the art poster exhibit.
    “Jerry and I have always thought we should document our art collection,” said Doc Slafkosky, the book’s coauthor and director of the Kortman Gallery. “We have hundreds of works of art by Rockford artists that we’ve been collecting for more than 50 years that not many people have had a chance to see.”
    “During covid, we spent a great deal of time at home which provided an opportunity to capture our collection in photographs,” Slafkosky continues. “We started to realize our collection represented a sort of history of art in the Rockford area…illustrating how the visual arts evolved in the community over the years.”
    Jerry Kortman started collecting in the 1960’s and the collection grew substantially after he and Slafkosky opened J.R. Kortman Center for Design and the Kortman Gallery in 1986.
“Rockford has so many amazing artists now, and in the past,” said Kortman. “This book and exhibition of art images, along with Art Zone videos should be quite an educational and entertaining experience. It is truly a retrospective look at the arts in Rockford covering more than  a half-century.”
     The Art Zone was a TV series, co-produced by Doug Connell and Kevin Cronin of Engine Studios. The show aired weekly on Rockford Cablevision from 1991-99, covering the arts, artists, and art events that took place in Rockford. Nearly 40 episodes were produced which included interviews with artists and performers, capturing on location, art openings, RSO events, New American Theater, Rockford Dance Company, Rockford Art Museum and more.
    The original episodes have been remastered and are now available on You Tube.
    “The collection of Art Zone shows is a rare, and amazing, look into a decade where the arts really began to blossom in Rockford,” says Connell, producer and technical director. 
     “The 1990’s was the last decade of the 20th Century and there was was so much optimism and enthusiasm in the Rockford arts community…and this TV series really captures that excitement,” said Holli Connell of Engine Studios.
   “Collection,” book launch, poster exhibition, and Art Zone reboot opens in the Kortman Gallery on Friday, April 21st, 5 to 9pmand Saturday, 11am to 6pm, Spring ArtScene weekend. The gallery is located upstairs at J. R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. The exhibit is free, and open to the public. The exhibition will run though June 17th, 2023. For more information call 815-968-0123  

Penny McGuire and Summer Wagner exhibit ‘photography reimagined’ in Kortman Gallery, now through April 15th!


 Rockford artists Penny McGuire and Summer Wagner capture their images through the lens of a camera. However, their creative energy goes beyond the subsequent photograph. They both reimagine their photographs and create images that offer a unique perspective that defines their art.
    The engaging images from each these photographers will be presented in the Kortman Gallery in “Photography reimagined,” an exhibition opening Friday, February 10th in the Kortman Gallery, Downtown Rockford.
    In her photographs, Penny McGuire is drawn to architecture, landscape and still life images.
    “I started experimenting with different settings on my 12 yr old Sony Cybershot to find different ways to record the images I saw”, says McGuire. “I am drawn to architecture, outdoor art and odd things as they relate to their natural environment and to each other.  Many of my photos are several different photos of the same shot in different modes.”
    Most of McGuire’s images in this show are primarily Rockford-related with a few eccentric still life’s and historic sites around the Midwest artistically enhanced to interject her expressive perspective to the photograph.
    After living in Los Angeles for ten years, the pandemic brought Summer Wagner back to Rockford, where she had spent much of her childhood.   
    Wagner’s images offer an extraordinary departure from what can be seen through the lens of a camera alone. Her photographs are ethereal fantasy of people in romantic, yet provocative settings that she visually creates.
    “My work contemplates the spiritual and psychological threads of everyday life and the blur of poetry that is our society's collective dreamscape,” writes Wagner in her artist’s statement.
    Doc Slafkosky, Kortman gallery director says these two artists were chosen because of the entirely different approaches they bring to photography.
    “Not only do Penny and Summer represent different generations, but their artistic vision also represents a different kind of photographic imagery,” said Slafkosky. They both, in some way, reimagine their photographs, but their style and subject matter are so different, that the contrast makes for an engaging and visually entertaining exhibition.”
    Meet the artists at the Kortman Gallery opening reception for “Photography reimagined,” featuring works by Penny McGuire and Summer Wagner Friday, February 10th from 5:30 to 9pm.  The gallery is located upstairs at J. R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. The exhibit is free, and open to the public. The exhibition will run though April 25th, 2023. For more information call 815-968-0123 or visit www.jrkortman.com.