Preston Jackson: Artist in Residence

November 28, 2010

By ERIN WOOD MILLER '09

Preston Jackson's two- and three-dimensional work is displayed in venues throughout the world. His murals can be seen on the exteriors of Peoria buildings, and his sculptures are along the riverfront.

Now the nationally known artist is sharing his expertise with Bradley students. Jackson became the University's artist in residence in January and will spend three more semesters teaching and critiquing. He will continue teaching one class as emeritus professor at the Art Institute in Chicago, as he has for the past two decades, but Jackson said he is happy to be on the Hilltop.

"I'm kind of a romantic. I miss what a real campus is like " the greenery, the community feeling, and all of the other subjects that you can cross into," he said. "I miss that. You can't find that at a city school."

Through the Inland Visual Studies Center, a program dedicated to studying Midwestern influences on visual art, culture, and music, Jackson said he plans to spend two or three days in Bradley classrooms to help students not only learn about art, but also about life.

"We learn principles and life lessons through art making," Jackson said. "My job is to point things out and show students how to get there, like a compass." Jackson mentors students and also works alongside them.

"I use metals, foundry, casting, drawing, and painting. I was able to work in all of those areas at the Art Institute, so that's what I can bring to Bradley."

Jackson, who holds a BFA from Southern Illinois University and an MFA from the University of Illinois, said he would also like to take advantage of Bradley's strong art department and use his two-year residency as a chance to hone his own skills.

"Oscar Gillespie (professor of art) is a good friend of mine, so I think this will give me a chance to improve my printmaking skills," he said.

Probably best known for his work with bronze castings, Jackson has received numerous public art commissions in Illinois, including a bronze of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable in Peoria and one of Chicago newsman Irv Kupcinet, located on Wacker Drive in Chicago.

Jackson owns the Raven Gallery, home to the Contemporary Art Center on Water Street in Peoria, which he founded, and he also has a studio in Chicago. He and his wife Melba have two daughters, and they split their time between Peoria and Chicago.