ARS Gallery to feature ‘John D. Wilson: The Renaissance Man’

Published 5:28 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2016

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Benton Harbor, Mich. — From 6 to 8 p.m. May 13, ARS Gallery in Benton Harbor will host a reception for a new exhibition, “John D. Wilson: The Renaissance Man.”

The exhibition will celebrate Wilson’s role in bringing world-renowned artists to southwest Michigan through the Lakeside Center for the Arts, and in launching the Chicago International Art Exposition, the first art fair of its kind in North America. ARS Arts & Culture Center will display prints and posters representing the Expo from 1980 to 1994, including works by Robert Motherwell and Ed Paschke. The exhibition is guest curated by John D. Wilson’s son, Jon Wilson. Small bites, wine, and refreshments will be served at the event.

“Mr. Wilson is a living legend who has accomplished great things in the art world throughout his life, and leaves a template and legacy for others to create and build,” said Anna Russo-Sieber of ARS Gallery.

An internationally known art dealer and printmaker, Wilson made his home base at the Lakeside Inn in Lakeside, Michigan, where he converted a large building behind the inn into studio space to house the Lakeside Center for the Arts. Through a unique exchange program at the height of the Cold War, Wilson provided artists from around the world with the opportunity to spend the summer at the Lakeside Center for the Arts, creating a cultural destination in southwest Michigan.

Wilson’s organization, the Lakeside Group, premiered Chicago International Art Exposition at Navy Pier in 1980. Over the years, the Expo was heralded as the nation’s leading art fair and attracted 80 dealers and 10,000 visitors to Chicago. The show also highlighted the potential of Navy Pier, which resulted in the venue’s rehabilitation.

A new book about Wilson’s conception and fulfillment of the Expo is scheduled for release later this summer at ARS Gallery, and it will include tributes from the many friends Wilson has made in the art world over the years, including Thomas McCormack, owner of the Thomas McCormack Gallery in Chicago’s West Loop, who cites Wilson as a mentor and friend for more than 30 years.

“From the moment I met John Wilson I could see the intensity with which he attacks life,” said John Sauvé, an artist and arts educator who has worked with Wilson over the past six years. “John says his ideas out loud, accomplished most of them at least once, and speaks with determination and passion every time he presents something new.”

“John D. Wilson: The Renaissance Man” will be on display at ARS Gallery through mid-July. For more information, call ARS Gallery at (269) 277-5090, or visit