Make a donation to Ox-Bow in memory of those dearly missed.
Dear Ox-Bow Friends,
This year saw the passing of Betsy Rupprecht and EW Ross, two invaluable members of our community.
Betsy Rupprecht was a beloved Chicago artist, designer, and educator. Her history with Ox-Bow goes back to 1932, when her expatriate parents and Ox-Bow founders Isobel Steele MacKinnon and Edgar Rupprecht returned from Paris, bringing newborn Betsy with them. Betsy spent her early years at Ox-Bow, while her parents taught and painted. Betsy began long tenures teaching at Ox-Bow in 1958 and SAIC in 1960. She was also an Ox-Bow director, and responsible for initiating the strategic alliance with SAIC. In later years, she served as an Ox-Bow Board Member, continuing to bring her generous disposition and inestimable range of view to the preservation and growth of Ox-Bow.
EW Ross was a talented and generous artist, educator, and administrator. He served Ox-Bow for over 35 years as Faculty, Program Director, and later Board Member. He founded and taught in Ox-Bow’s Pre-College program, a week-long intensive course for high school students who come to Ox-Bow to strengthen their skills and bond with other artistic teens from a range of locations and backgrounds, earning one SAIC college credit in the process. This past summer, EW Ross co-taught his final Pre-College course, before serving as Ox-Bow’s 2018 Summer Benefit honoree.
We mourn the loss of our dear Betsy and Ross, and find comfort in their memories and legacies. Thank you to Ox-Bow Board President Steve Meier for his following memorialization of these two deeply important figures.
Ox-Bow School of Art & Artists’ Residency
How does a place become part of you; so much so that you carry it with you forever?
For Betsy Rupprecht, Ox-Bow was that place. She became a part of Ox-Bow when she arrived with her parents, Edgar and Isobel, from Paris in 1932 as an infant in arms. It was a familiar place to Rupprecht and MacKinnon from their earlier summers at Ox-Bow teaching and painting and Betsy spent her very early childhood with them at Ox-Bow, living in the Bogart. She grew up here, painted here, taught here, and served for many years as a Board member and even Board President.
For 86 years Betsy was a part of this place, embracing Ox-Bow as a home and sanctuary and sharing it with many others who built the foundation of what Ox-Bow is today. Betsy was the quintessential steward, concerned about every tree and planting and structure; where it was placed, how it grew; considering as an artist would, how everything affected the place and the experience of Ox-Bow.
At some point, she reminded all of us, anything we added or changed should be considered integral to an artistic viewpoint. Whether it was to become a scene to be painted, a site-specific sculpture or pure inspiration, the thought of preserving the magic of this place was foremost in her mind.
In a very real sense, Betsy was the soul and spirit of Ox-Bow and we shall miss her dearly.
Last week, a very close friend shared a dream he had about Ross:
“It was spring and he was outside looking fit and curious about the world around him….”
From this beautiful image, I imagined Ross at Ox-Bow, a place where he was very much at home.
To say that Ox-Bow is an immersive experience would be an understatement. It finds a way into your soul, and so it was with Ross. I learned to love it as he did; every quirky cabin, every studio, every homemade feature of the place, and especially the natural landscape.
As much as he embraced all the special places he lived and traveled—Ireland, SW France, and his home in Rogers Park—Ox-Bow was truly exceptional for Ross. And it was so because of how much he loved to share it. For Ross, Ox-Bow was meant to be a shared experience. He wanted everyone he knew to be a part of it and to have their own relationship with the place.
I first knew him when he was the Program Director, but Ross served many roles over the course of his 35 years with Ox-Bow. As a teacher, director, board member, and particularly as a landscape artist, Ross brought his democratic approach. He believed that everyone should have access to art, regardless of one’s background, ability, or age. I am grateful that he connected me and so many others to Ox-Bow, so that we can continue his legacy of joy in sharing its inspiration and magnetism with friends, family, and students. At Ox-Bow, Ross and I shared artmaking in the studios, hiking to the Crow’s Nest, canoe trips on the lagoon, and fishing with our boys.
To speak further of legacy, Ross founded Ox-Bow’s Pre-College program for high school students. He was always thinking of ways to creatively expand programming by engaging alumni and finding partnership opportunities with other arts organizations. How fitting it was that we celebrated Ross for his contributions to Ox-Bow as our 2018 honoree just this past July, coming at the end of his week co-teaching the very course he founded.
For me personally, Ross’ legacy is that of an artist, friend, and teacher, as I saw all of those identities present within him. He taught me and many others about how to observe and understand the natural world as an artist. He carried the traditions of Ox-Bow in his own way and is now forever linked to the continuum of artists who form the foundation of this artist community.
I came to understand Ox-Bow as he did; as special, magical places that form a natural sanctuary. And I learned from Ross the sacredness of the place, how rare it is, the history of the artists who were there, and our place in that history. I learned about the legends of Ox-Bow and the pantheon of founders and artists who made it possible: the Shrivers, Fursmann and Clute, Tallmadge, Mary Kay, Alice Bogart, Edgar Rupprecht and Isobel MacKinnon, Olendorf, Lanyon, Tillstrom, Betsy Rupprecht and so many others.
And now to those legends, I commend my dear friend E.W. Ross.
Patty Birkholz, Emeritus Board Member of Ox-Bow was our constant champion and defender. Her gracious spirit and fiery conviction will be missed. Please join others in our community who have donated in her honor. Support will help continue the efforts she spearheaded to keep Ox-Bow protected for its participants and the local community in perpetuity.