Julie Grojean uses art skills to benefit students, family and The Art Association
By Eric A Thomas
Photos/Submitted to The Source
For those in the creative arts, whether visual or performing, one thing is for certain. Passion is the driving force behind what propels the artist to create. For one local artist, those creative juices have been flowing since her adolescence.
Growing up in Eureka, Julie (Dowling) Grojean was exposed to the arts through family and the school system.
“My mother was a musician, contralto soloist and educator,” she shared. “In addition, my brother was a musician, an educator, and a conductor for professional choral groups.”
Eureka High School had an excellent art program where she began studying what would become a lifelong passion. That passion led her to study art at Eastern Illinois University, where she graduated in 1974 with a major in art education and minor in psychology. After marrying Tom Grojean, the two settled in Jacksonville.
While at EIU, Julie Grojean focused primarily on 2-dimensional studies such as drawing, painting and printmaking, but she also studied 3-dimensional art such as jewelry, sculpture, ceramics and weaving.
“From 1975 to 1977, I taught at the old Jacksonville High School with Billie Scott, a wonderful mentor to me as a first-time teacher,” reminisced Grojean.
“My next leg of teaching was in the ‘90s when I returned for ten years to JHS and worked with Linda Dunseth and Judy Moore. That was a fantastic experience going back into the world of art.” During her absence from the classroom, Grojean became a stay-at-home mom but kept up with the happenings in the art world.
When she moved to Jacksonville in 1974, her mother-in-law suggested that she get involved with The Art Association of Jacksonville — and 49 years later, she is still involved.
“With a great love for the organization and The David Strawn Art Gallery, this has been a great way to share art with the community,” she added. Teaching classes at the Strawn; designing and painting backdrops for the main fundraising event, the Beaux Arts Ball; and serving on the board of directors for 41 years have been highlights for this local artist.
Recently, Grojean donated a painting for The Art Association of Jacksonville’s lawn party and art auction. Various artists donated to this event and this year’s proceeds went to help fund the maintenance of The David Strawn Art Gallery’s windows and soffits.
“I love using acrylic paint and recently I have added gold/metal leaf to the canvases,” she said.
“The piece I donated was called ‘Golden Crossing #1,’ and it was acrylic paint with various textures and gold/metal leaf on canvas.”
Other textures she has worked with include twine, cheesecloth, tissue paper, gel medium, fabric, glass beads and various grades of sawdust and wood shavings.
She has done commissioned work, and most are nonobjective abstractions, which means they are of non-recognizable subject matter. She has done a few abstract landscapes as well, which have been a nice variation for her. Most of her paintings are single “stand alone” pieces, but she has also created many diptychs and triptychs (a group of 2 or 3, respectfully, paintings that sit side by side).
In 2013, The Art Association challenged her to have a exhibit of her work. She accepted the challenge and spent six months creating 50 paintings of various sizes. Her husband, Tom, builds her painting stretcher frames and helps her stretch the canvases onto the frames.
The couple have three children: Nick, Mollie and Kate. One of Grojean’s many joys is not only sharing art with the public but also with her family. She has given a few art classes in her grandchildren’s elementary classes in the Chicago area.
The Grojeans’ seven grandchildren are Sam, Vivian, Jane, Mack, Jillian, Mary and Elizabeth. At birth, she gave each of their grandchildren a diptych in colors to match their rooms.