Sueko Kawamura, a former student who inspired many with her artistic work and work ethic, left $100,000 to the Evanston Art Center. The Center announced the donation at a memorial service on January 15, along with an exhibition of Kawamura’s work. Kawamura died in February 2021 at the age of 98.
“In honor of Sueko’s donation, the Evanston Art Center is naming its second-floor gallery Sueko Kawamura Gallery,” said Paula Danoff, President and CEO of the Evanston Art Center. “Everyone who visits the gallery will be able to see a beautiful plaque installed in memory of the donor and will know of Sueko’s generosity.”
“Although only 4’9″ Sueko had great talent and life force, often laughing at the thought of Japanese women being compliant,” her friend, fellow sculptor Mike Dillon, wrote in a beautiful commemorative booklet. which he created. The book included photographs of her from many stages and events of her life and reminiscences of several friends from her classes.
Kawamura was a woman of talent and great dedication to her art. She was born into a Japanese samurai family in 1923 in China, as her father was there on a diplomatic mission for the Japanese government. Growing up in the years before and during World War II taught her flexibility, resilience and broader perception, she said in the memorial book. “I was lucky to be young and strong during the war. Believe me, I understood that the American soldiers suffered as much as the Japanese. I am the lucky one, I have never been surrounded by “strangers” since my childhood. I have never developed prejudices against nationalities, ethnic groups or people of color.
At the age of 36, renouncing traditional Japanese dress and refusing the concept of an arranged marriage, Kawamura came to the United States and entered the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She studied painting there with a minor in sculpture. After graduating in 1964, she received a coveted award from the School’s Former Painters Association.
Kawamura then went to work as a layout artist at Richard Rush Studios in Chicago’s West Loop. There she worked on architectural models for projects such as the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower and on a number of medical models. She remained at Rush Studios until her retirement.
She also took a job as a hat seller at a theater near Second City to improve her English. “She loved plays and was a long-time subscriber to the Steppenwolf Theatre,” Dillon said in the memorial booklet. Her love of travel was evident from the many photographs she had.
At the age of 77, in her “retirement”, Kawamura returned to her love of fine art, pursuing her painting and sculpture in classes at the Evanston Art Center, where she made many friends.
“Sueko was feisty, opinionated and one of the most talented artists I have had the pleasure of knowing. One immediately noticed the energy she displayed at all times,” writes Bill Anders, another student sculptor friend at the Art Center.
Other comments from other students include: “She pushed her sculpting and developed a unique and visionary style. … Sueko didn’t talk much, and every remark she made was important. There were no empty words. … It was interesting and involving to watch her work.
Kawamura’s bequest will fund eight full scholarships each year for 25 years, incorporating any likely increase in tuition fees. The scholarships will be known as the Weighardt/Kawamura scholarships. They will be awarded to students who cannot afford the cost of Art Center courses.
Exhibitions in the newly named gallery are part of the Art Center’s overall exhibition program. Thirty exhibitions a year take place at the Centre, including 12 month-long exhibitions in the Sueko Kawamura Gallery. This makes it possible to accommodate around 20 artists each year in the second floor gallery space.
Kawamura’s ashes will be brought back to Japan at his request by two dear friends, when overseas travel is once again possible. Free copies of the memorial book are available at the Art Center, 1717 Central St., and can also be mailed on request.