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Ralph Arnold

Artist Ralph Arnold was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1928. After graduating from Blue Island High School in 1946, Arnold attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign briefly in 1947. He later returned there before transferring and graduating from Roosevelt University in 1955. In 1976, Arnold earned his M.F.A. degree from the Art Institute of Chicago.

After leaving the U of I the first time, Arnold enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in Korea from 1950 until 1952. After entering Roosevelt University, Arnold became involved with the Skyloft Players, a theater group, where he worked with Abena Joan Brown and Okoro Harold Johnson. After graduating, Arnold focused on his art, and in 1969, he was hired by Rockford College as an assistant professor of painting. From there, he taught briefly at Barrat College before being named chairman of the art department at Loyola University of Chicago. Arnold also served as an adjunct lecturer at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Arnold’s work crossed several genres, and could be seen in numerous galleries and collections. He created a series of collages entitled “Napoleon in Hawaii,” some of which were displayed in the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, and he had another piece on display in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Arnold also had an interest in bookbinding. He was a member of the Illinois Arts Council for more than thirty years.

Arnold died on May 10, 2006 at the age of 77.

Accession Number

A2004.145

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/25/2004

Last Name

Arnold

Maker Category
Schools

University Seventh-Day Adventist School

Green Magnet Math & Science Academy

Austin-East Magnet High School

Dd Eisenhower High Sch (Campus)

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Roosevelt University

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ralph

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

ARN01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/5/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Italian Food, Fried Potatoes, Ice Cream, Cake, Pie, Cobbler

Death Date

5/10/2006

Short Description

Mixed media artist and art professor Ralph Arnold (1928 - 2006 ) earned his M.F.A. degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, and taught art as an assistant, lecturer and department chair at several colleges and universities. His work crossed several genres, and could be seen in numerous galleries and collections.

Employment

Rockford College

Barrat College

Loyola University of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

US Army

Favorite Color

Blue, Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ralph Arnold's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ralph Arnold lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ralph Arnold talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ralph Arnold talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ralph Arnold describes his adoptive parents and how his adoptive father joined a minstrel company

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ralph Arnold recounts his adoptive father's career in amusement companies and as a janitor

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ralph Arnold remembers his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ralph Arnold describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ralph Arnold remembers modern technology at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ralph Arnold describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ralph Arnold talks about his grade schools in Knoxville, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ralph Arnold remember teachers from his elementary school years

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ralph Arnold describes his after-school activities in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ralph Arnold recalls feeling like an outsider and his experience of racial discrimination in school, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ralph Arnold recalls feeling like an outsider and his experience of racial discrimination in school, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ralph Arnold remembers taking college courses in high school and his experience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ralph Arnold talks about serving in the Korean War just after the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ralph Arnold talks about his black staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ralph Arnold recalls North Korean soldiers who asked about his treatment by white officers

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ralph Arnold describes stories from the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ralph Arnold remembers soldiers in his outfit who died in the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ralph Arnold talks about returning to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after the Korean War and being prevented from graduating

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ralph Arnold talks about working with Skyloft Players and playing extra parts at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ralph Arnold talks about his acting experience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ralph Arnold talks about Skyloft Players and notable members he met in the group

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ralph Arnold describes prominent theater personalities and political figures in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ralph Arnold talks about his commute from Robbins, Illinois to Chicago, Illinois, and his adoptive father's opinion of his theater work

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ralph Arnold talks about earning his M.F.A. degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ralph Arnold talks about his teaching career and becoming the department chair at Loyola University Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ralph Arnold talks about his experience as the first black academic administrator at Loyola University Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ralph Arnold describes his artistic style

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ralph Arnold talks about his visual art works and shows

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ralph Arnold talks about his interest in Napoleon and in collecting

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ralph Arnold talks about originality in art

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ralph Arnold shows one of his most recent art pieces

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ralph Arnold reflects on his parents' opinion of his art

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ralph Arnold describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ralph Arnold reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ralph Arnold talks about what he would do differently

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ralph Arnold talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ralph Arnold narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

6$8

DATitle
Ralph Arnold recalls feeling like an outsider and his experience of racial discrimination in school, pt. 1
Ralph Arnold describes his artistic style
Transcript
I went to Blue Island High School and--then--it's called [Dwight D.] Eisenhower [High School, Blue Island, Illinois] now, it was Blue Island then, and it had about fifteen black kids, and those black kids came from the grammar school in Robbins. I had gone to high school primarily, or grammar school in Knoxville [Tennessee] so by the time I got to high school, I had--I didn't know any of those black kids. You know, they grew up together, they knew who they were, and that sort of thing and I had--I made friends but it was not like, you know, growing up together and playing basketball with your buddies and stuff like that.$$So did you feel like an outsider sort of?$$For a long time and I was caught between two points, the white kids on one side and the black kids, I didn't know about the other and they didn't know me. You know, kids are strange. They, they gotta--we got to test each other before we--so I had a couple of interesting things. I think the incident that drove me to, perhaps to being who I am now, was when it came to--well, I'm jumping ahead--is the senior play, and they had listed try-outs for the senior play. Well, dumb me, I went to try out for the senior play and the drama coach says, "I'm sorry Mr. Arnold, we don't have any, any parts for a negro." What I did, I think, during my senior and junior year, was to do two things. I tried to convince the black kids that it was all right, and if it wasn't all right, they should try it anyway. So I joined all these things, the photography club, the all-guard club, the, you know, printmaking club, arts club and in every instance, I was the only black kid in that--in those clubs, and they would--black kids would say to me they didn't feel comfortable joining those all-white clubs, and they didn't think they could get in a lot of times because they were supposed to--they were supposed to have a grade level to get in some of those things, and I did. And I don't know how many different things I joined. My mother [adoptive mother, Bertha Harris Arnold] wouldn't let me go out for sports so I never got a letter. I got a letter for being the--for running the motion picture machine, but I didn't get a letter for track or football or any of those other things. Of course, I guess I wasn't the biggest of kids to--but football, I wanted football, but my mother wouldn't let me even try football.$So, in terms of your artwork itself, what is your, can you describe your work and what you attempt to do?$$Okay, it's mainstream. It's, has always been, experimental and mainstream. I do pretty much what I feel like doing and any themes that I want to do, like that big piece is a collage of mine. I started out doing collages because of Romare Bearden and my collages sometimes look like his, other times, they're so far remote from his and as they get more figurative. I had, I've done some figurative things and I find them quite satisfying but I get a lot of excitement out of working primarily with my hands rather than the paint brush. You know, I did a lot of constructions, building things. I was in, and I couldn't find, the Whitney Museum of Art [Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York] did a show entitled, 'Black American Artist' or something, 'American Black Art' and it was a national show and the curator went around the United States picking out people to be in the show and I was in the show with a lot of well-known black artists, Romare Bearden, [HistoryMaker] Richard Hunt, many others, and it was at a time when art was becoming polarized, you know. You did so-called black art which I found offensive because it's really African art, it's not black art. I mean, it's, it's an ethnic kind of art and it's pure and it's beautiful and then there are, no matter where you come from, the same kind of art that you would find in a Polish museum, Polish American artists that were influenced by their homeland but they were more American than they were Polish, you know, and if they went over Polish, it was watered down, it wasn't, it wasn't really honest as far as I was concerned. So, I think, what I tried to do was be as honest as far as I was concerned--