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Fox Valley inducts 8 into arts hall of fame
By Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff

Murna Hansemann, vice president of the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame, places a medal on the neck of recipient broadcaster Floyd Brown of Elgin.


Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff

Huntley Brown


Wallace Cunningham


The late Martha and Herb Schingoethe


Edward C. Cook


Susan Kay Weiler


Floyd Brown


J. Allison Binford


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Published: 4/23/2010 12:00 AM

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Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame Class of 2010

Eight people were honored Thursday night during a ceremony in Bartlett:

• J. Allison Binford Jr., of Aurora, got his start in television when he joined WTTW during its startup years at the Museum of Science and Industry. For 28 years he wrote, produced, directed and appeared on programs that led to the development of the present-day public broadcasting system, earning an Emmy.

• Floyd Brown, of Elgin, achieved national recognition in the mid-1960s when he became the first black hired by a major network and was chosen to be featured with Bill Cosby on the cover of NBC's company magazine. His career at WGN Radio and TV spanned 1971 and 1999.

• Huntley Brown, of Aurora, grew up in Jamaica and was educated at Judson College (now University) and Northern Illinois University. A concert pianist, his playing earned him the Top Caribbean Gospel Instrumentalist Award in 2005 and 2006. He has recorded 13 CDs covering a wide range of styles and shared his music ministry around the world.

• Edward C. Cook, of Batavia, began painting in earnest in 1980 and concentrated on miniatures painting. In 1995 he was one of 38 American miniaturists invited to London to participate in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's Royal Miniature Society.

• Wallace E. Cunningham, of San Diego (with roots in Batavia), once served as curator for Blackberry Farm's (then Pioneer Park) Americana Collection. He attended NIU, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The International Academy of Architecture named him an Honorary Professor in 2009. Twice his name has appeared on Architectural Digest's list of the top 100 designers.

• Herbert and Martha Schingoethe, of Aurora, were longtime collectors of art and cultural artifacts who endowed Aurora University with a museum of Native American art, an art gallery, and a curriculum of museum studies complete with faculty and professional staff.

• Susan Kay Weiler, of Aurora, began her career in 1983 when she joined Hanna/Olin upon completion of her master of landscape architecture degree. In 1996 she was named partner of OLIN, and in 2007 she was named a Fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects. She has won numerous design awards since 1988.

SOURCE: Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame

Edward Cook's high school classmates nicknamed him "Class Dreamer."

Huntley Brown dreamed of world travel while growing up in Jamaica.

And a visit to the Fox Valley to nurse a sister over a broken leg led to a series of odd jobs and fortuitous connections that turned Wallace Cunningham into a world-renowned architect.

The three were honored, along with five other people, with induction to the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame Thursday night.

"The arts is the greatest hope we have. It is absolutely the international language. Anywhere you go, art speaks louder than anything," Cunningham said, after regaling the audience with tales of the meandering path that led to him being an architect.

Cook, a miniatures artist who lives in Batavia, recalled when he first knew he wanted to be an artist. He was in seventh grade and his mother had taken him to a store where an oil painter was doing a demonstration.

"I want to be an artist. I want to be an oil painter," he thought. But he didn't have oil paints. So back at home, he dug out his school watercolor paintbox and took a small hammer to the pigments, beating them in to a powder. But how to turn them into oil paint?

"Well, there was my mom's shortening," he said, drawing a laugh.

He also noted that "it took 70 years for me to get here." After high school he worked in the corporate world for many years, resuming his art much later in life.

Pianist Brown, of Aurora, spoke both of his Christian faith - he is well-known for performing on Total Living Network - and how he tried to use tricks to get by when he first studied classical music at Judson College in Elgin, because he could barely read music, having learned to play by ear.

Even a job in the college's music library enriched him: "I was the worst worker in the library. I spent all day just listening and listening," he said.

Broadcaster Floyd Brown of Elgin said he had to overcome racial prejudice for years; at one of his first radio jobs there was a music cabinet labeled "race," and in it were works by artists as diverse as Paul Robeson, Ray Charles and Duke Ellington - separated from other musicians not by their accomplishments, but by their skin color.

"I used to tell (program directors), 'Just introduce me as Floyd Brown, give me three months on the air, then tell them (the audience) whatever you want to about my race," he said. By then they wouldn't care, he said, because they knew him as a person.

Landscape architect Susan Kay Weiler grew up in Aurora, helping her parents run the Paramount and Tivoli movie and concert theaters.

"Didn't every kid have parents who let them discover their own art?" she asked.

The arts hall of fame, started in 2000, inducts a class every other year. On the odd years, it hosts a special concert or performance; last year it was the Pacifica Quartet.

Plaques listing the honorees' accomplishments will be hung in the Paramount Theater in downtown Aurora.

Other honorees were the late Herb and Martha Schingoethe, collectors of American Indian artifacts who helped establish a museum at Aurora University, and J. Allison Binford of Aurora, who helped found public television.