Jacoby Arts Center asked you last Fall to finish this statement: "Art is . . . ."  You responded, and we are exploring those answers through our programming this year.  Each month we use a different response as the theme for exhibits, classes, workshops, etc. Now, we need artists to submit their work to continue the conversation.



Exhibitions are open to artists who are 18 years or older.  Work must be original, current, and not previously shown at JAC.

In the OSF Saint Anthony's Gallery 

Dec. 4, 2019- Jan. 26, 2020

Opening Reception - December 6, 2019 // 6:00 - 8:00pm

JURIED BY Monica Mason

For something to be inspirational means that it makes you feel hopeful or encouraged.  What can be inspirational? People can be inspirational. Moments can be inspirational. Certainly, art can be inspirational.  As this year ends and another begins, let’s seek to inspire and be inspired.

“Art is . . . inspirational” exhibition is an all-media exhibition seeking to inspire our community to be positive.  We are asking artists to submit artwork that might make us hopeful and encouraged for the new year. 

Deadline: Submissions are due by November 6, 2019 at 5:00pm. Artists will be notified of acceptance by November 14th, 2019.


Entry Specifications: A $25 entry fee is required. One entry per artist, but you can submit up to 5 different pieces in your entry. All submitted work must be available for the entire exhibition. Work may not exceed 50 lbs or be greater than 60” in any direction.   


Artwork can only be delivered on these dates: November 20th – November 23rd between 10am and 4pm.  No artwork will be received after December 1st.

*Pick up artwork: January 29th – February 1st  between 10am and 4pm

*All artwork must be picked up within one week of the close of the exhibit or work will become property of JAC.


  • AFA, Associate of Fine Arts Degree, St. Louis Community College

  • BFA Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 

  • MFA, Masters of Fine Arts, Art History and Art Theory, Vermont College of Norwich University, Montpelier, Vermont.



  • Professor of Art and Art History; 1987-2007. I taught painting, design, drawing, sculpture, art history and predominantly figure drawing and anatomy classes for 20 years. 

  • St.Louis Community College at Florissant Valley 

  • Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

  • Webster University

  • UMSL, University of Missouri, St. Louis 

  • Lewis and Clark Community College


Exhibitions and Commissions

  • The Post Commons, Alton, large scale historic portraits commission. 2018-2019

  • ”The Community Portrait Project” exhibit, Post Commons, Alton, Illinois, 2019

  • ”The Community Portrait Project”, part two, Post Commons, Alton, Illinois, winter 2020

  • ”The Community Portrait Project” Book. Currently working on a book which tells the story of of the Community Portrait Project and gives more in-depth stories of the people I’m painting. Looking to publish late 2020

  • ”Retrospective, 30 years of painting” exhibit, St. Louis Community College, 2018

  • HealthWorks Museum, St. Louis, mural commission. Nine large scale murals, 2016

  • ”East End Collected” group exhibition, NY, 2016

  • St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis, exhibit sculpture, “Life Science Lab” and “Organ Printer” exhibit casework. 2010

  • Previous to this, various exhibitions of painting, printmaking and videography in the St. Louis area. Video work was broadcast on “Mind over Television” series as part of KDHX television. Mind over Television festival winner, NY 1992. 

Meet the Juror

Monica Mason

Art Is... Inspirational

     Although I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri, I made Alton, Illinois my home in 1995. 

     Growing up in a heavily catholic community, and attending parochial school, I was influenced early in life by vintage catholic iconography, especially the visceral intensity of images of the martyred saints. The cinematic quality of these images related to my concurrent childhood fascination with old black and white films from the 1930s/’40s. Both realms; religious images and vintage movie images inspired me as a childhood artist. As much of the vintage imagery I was influenced by was narrative (storytelling) by nature, I also began telling and writing stories to accompany my childhood art. 

     I attended St. Louis Community College and received my AFA, Associates of Fine Arts degree, followed by my BFA, Bachelors Degree in Fine Art which I received from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. My major focus of study was in printmaking, painting and art history. 

In 1987, I began a long teaching career, (20 years), teaching in several area universities and colleges,(listed below). It was in the midst of my teaching career that I returned to college myself to finish a Masters Degree. I attended SIU Edwardsville for 2 semesters and then restarted my Masters Degree at Vermont College, a branch of Norwich University in Montpelier, Vermont. I was 40 when I finished my Masters Degree, proof that it’s never too late to accomplish anything. 

     My work, whether painting, drawing, printmaking or videography has historically focused on issues of identity and how it’s shaped by personal narrative. I’ve also explored themes of spirituality and sometimes extreme states of being. Some of my work in the mediums of painting and videography have been influenced by the vintage images of catholic iconography which promoted physical suffering and martyrdom as indicators of spiritual transcendence. In my Masters Degree research and beyond into my real life outside of school, my focus was on the art of the Counter Reformation and the Baroque era, (roughly mid-1500’s-1700) with a focus in Spanish and Italian painters and sculptors. I’ve explored various ways throughout history in which inner states of mind are reflected upon external appearances of the face and body. I’ve also researched the changing depictions of spirituality as reflections of their historic context. These are themes that still influence my work to this day. 

Odd as it may sound, my research into the extremity of some religious art eventually led to extensive research into the history of circus art and sideshow banners. Both seemingly opposite realms shared some similarities in terms of bodily suffering and the symbolism of physical extremity.  As the entirety of my teaching career had a focus in figure drawing and anatomy, I have tended to be drawn to portrayals of people above all other subject matter. 

     My current work is a large scale portrait project, (The Community Portrait Project) in which I’m painting portraits of my fellow Altonians. I’ve randomly chosen various members of the community to paint; my focus being a combination of choosing those whose contributions to our community have caught my attention, and also quite a few people whose appearance possessed a certain presence, a kind of energy that appealed to me. I’ve reached out to some who are friends, some who are complete strangers, and many who fit somewhere in between. 

     My intent is to create commemorative portraits of people while they are still living and can see themselves being honored publicly. I want people to feel like they’ve been “seen”, and appreciated, and acknowledged for what they bring to the community, whether through their civic efforts or their creative endeavors. Too often we wait till people are gone before we recognize them for the good things that they do, whether the good deeds are large or small. I accompany each painting with a brief story about each model, describing the ways in which they make our community a better place. This acknowledgment pays tribute to the models, and also inspires viewers to engage within the community in a similar vein. 

     After I interview my models, and then photograph them, I attempt to make a painting that isn’t simply a carbon copy of a photo. I feel that is a pointless technical exercise. In this same spirit, I’m not using projection equipment for my portraits. Everything is freehand, and for me, refreshingly low tech. My intent is to portray something of the inner life of each model, each unique to the personhood of the models. As the painter creating these works, I’m also painting a bit about my own feelings regarding each person. If I feel genuine respect and affection for the model I’m painting, I feel that energy can be conveyed to the viewer, making the painted portrait something beyond a simple “likeness”. 

     My hope is to generate a culture within our community that promotes making full eye contact with one another, perhaps as a first step toward understanding, appreciation, respect and ultimately love for one another. So often in our tensely competitive and divisive society, we lose our capacity to engage with one another. We stare at our phones, we avert our eyes when we pass our fellow townspeople, reluctant to make eye contact, afraid to extend ourselves to others. We sometimes feel that even smiling at others carries the risk of some sort of rejection. However, I feel that the very nature of our current competitive, isolationist, and divisive culture drives the need even more so to connect with others, especially those we don’t necessarily know, especially those who are outside our comfortable social circle. When we make eye contact with strangers, they cease to be strangers. They become people we know, people we can possess empathy for. And lastly, by telling the individual stories of each of my models, my hope is to inspire others to engage with their community. 

     This portrait project has been a labor of love thus far. As my goal was to encourage eye contact with others, I have reached out to many people, many who were strangers, and opened myself up to get to know them. It’s a process that is a good exercise in fearless interaction with anyone. Nothing opens you up like walking up to a stranger and asking if you can paint them and then spending time talking with them, staring into their face for days, sometimes weeks as you paint them. Admittedly, I’ve been fortunate to have made friendships with quite a few of the models I’ve painted, and I’m always inspired by the stories my models have shared with me. In this life, we are all interchangeably both students and teachers. The wider range of people we open ourselves up to, the better chance we have of learning from others, of teaching or inspiring others.