The Lake County Art League had its beginnings in 1934. Cora Davies, an art teacher, born in Kansas made her way to South Dakota, where she met and married Rev. J. W. Frederick Davies. In the early 1900’s they made their way to Illinois. Both of them were college educated people who were known as “freethinkers.”
In 1924 the Davies were living in Wilmette and her pastor husband is given credit for founding The Winnetka Community House. Today the building is the home of the North Shore Art League.
They then moved to Waukegan about 1933 where Pastor Davies became the Minister of the First Congregational Church in Waukegan.
On October 5, 1934, seven women got together at the Davies home in Waukegan and there they organized the Lake County Art League. The seven founding members were Mrs. Davies, Mrs. Fred Randolph, Mrs. Kenneth Wilkins, Harriet Connolly, Betsy Ross Wyllie, Faith Soules and Mrs. A.E. Enerson. The league grew rapidly, and within a month, they had held an exhibition at the Karcher Hotel with 150 paintings.
The Lake County Art League has always been conscious of its cultural
obligations to the city of Waukegan. From its earliest days, it has held classes in art for students of all ages, at various places; the Elks Club, church halls,
schoolrooms, homes, at the Finnish Temperance Hall, the Barwell
Settlement, at Bowen Park and their own studio in the Genesee building.
From its beginning, the Art League has had two public exhibits each year,
one in the spring and one in the fall. They were held at the Waukegan
Library Auditorium, and now at the Jack Benny Center. At the
end of each exhibit, the works are critiqued by a well-known artist
invited for that purpose. The exhibits provide the artists with an
incentive to work, and they give the community a chance to view and
buy original art created by local artists.
In 1953 the league had its first outdoor summer festival. The framed art were hung on fishermen’s nets across from the yacht club on the
Waukegan lakefront. In other summers, the fairs were held at Upton
Park with the art work hung on clotheslines and tennis court screens.
When Belvidere Mall was built, the league took its fair indoors and later moved to Lakehurst Mall inviting artists from nearby states to participate. From there it moved to the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center, near Zion, and eventually to Winthrop Harbor for many years under the direction of Hazel Spiers.
Lake County Art League artists have always been interested in improving
their skills. To that end, workshops were sponsored each year, primarily
for their own members. Monthly competitions were conducted at the
general meetings, and many one-man or small group shows were going
In 1947, the league established a scholarship fund for high school seniors
excelling in art who planned to major in art in college. Sixteen
scholarships were awarded by 1958 when that program was
discontinued. Then, smaller scholarships were given to grade school
students to participate in local art classes. Following that, two
scholarships for College of Lake County art students were granted in
conjunction with the league, one of those is funded by the league and
the other by the Phoebe Boyd Memorial Fund. Among its other civic contributions, the league has donated paintings to area hospitals, held exhibits in conjunction with musical events, and painted sets for the Waukegan Community Players.
The Lake County Art League is still today dedicated to personal artistic growth, community involvement, keeping contact with the larger art world, and attempting
to pass the torch to the next generation.
Lake County Art League is a Non Profit 501(c)(3) Organization.