Skip to content (Press Enter)
facebook Twitter Linked In Instagram Pinterest Youtube Rss

McHenry County College Celebrates On-Campus Art by Prominent Sculptor Richard Hunt

In 1991, McHenry County College (MCC) had just completed a massive expansion, increasing the size of its campus by nearly 40% in response to the significant growth happening in the county. The project included two new buildings with additional classrooms and faculty offices; a 350-seat conference center; a cafeteria and commons space; and a new entrance located on the South end of campus.

As a capstone to this building project, the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation suggested a sculpture be added to the new entrance, keeping with the College’s goal of increasing awareness and emphasis on art in the community.

“We believe that the arts are good for business, increase tourism, and generally enhance and enrich the quality of life and economic wellbeing of a community,” the Foundation said in an original proposal document for the project. “The acquisition of a sculpture continues the Foundation’s commitment to this goal.”

But equally as important as the sculpture itself was the sculptor they had in mind to create it.

The Board commissioned Richard Hunt, a Chicago-based sculptor noted for his dynamic abstract forms typically comprised of steel, bronze, and Corten (a steel alloy).

“Mr. Hunt’s ability to combine modernistic designs with the feelings of nature and the real world make him the most appealing artist to the College for this project,” said the Foundation in the proposal document. “His ideas are unique not only in design, but in composition.”

At the time he was commissioned for the sculpture, Hunt had already been a prominent force in the world of sculpture for decades. He grew up on Chicago’s South Side and showed artistic leanings from an early age, later attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957. During that time, he was awarded the prestigious James Nelson Raymond Foreign Travel fellowship, which allowed him to continue his artistic education in England, France, Spain, and Italy.

Hunt also had a special interest in taking on MCC’s project—he had a farmhouse in McHenry County where he worked on smaller scale pieces, including models for his larger public commissions.

When envisioning the design for the College’s works, Hunt took motivation from the tremendous growth he saw occurring in McHenry County, as well as the corresponding growth of the College’s enrollment. He developed a design which included one sculpture in three parts, depicting growth, development, and interaction.

On June 26, 1994, Richard Hunt’s stainless-steel sculptures were installed and dedicated at the College. Each piece measured between 5 and 7 feet high, with a base of approximately 8 sq. ft.

The three-part sculpture can be viewed by parking in Lot B and walking across the street (in front of the baseball fields).

“Each sculpture relates to the other connected by common shapes and lines that move,” said Sarah Ruthven, art instructor and department chair at MCC. “The ideas of growth, development, and interaction can be seen in the ways that the sculptures increase in height and complexity. Especially on a sunny day, the surface of the sculptures and the deep shadows give the impression of slow, gradual growth and change. A true visual representation of learning and student success.”

At the time when MCC’s sculptures were created, there was no other work by Richard Hunt in McHenry County. But since that time, Hunt has only gained in national stature—and interest in his sculptures has risen.

“Hunt’s sculpture is a jewel in the permanent art collection at MCC,” said MCC’s art gallery curator, Trevor Power. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the community to experience pieces by such a distinguished artist.”

Hunt has now created over 150 commissioned works—many of which are in the Chicago area—and has produced more public sculptures than any other artist in America. Some of his best-known works include “Jacob’s Ladder,” a brass and bronze recreation of the biblical story which soars from floor to ceiling in the atrium of the Carter Woodson Regional Library in Chicago, and “I Have Been to the Mountain,” an elegant, welded steel hillock at the Martin Luther King Memorial in Memphis, Tennessee.

Hunt was also the first African American sculptor to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery and National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

According to Hunt (via a quote found in the original proposal documents), the major challenge of public sculpture is to communicate. “If the piece is interesting enough for people to stop and look at, then as they look, they can develop association of one kind or another. If the form is subtle enough, then the associations can be ongoing and multiply. And that is precisely the goal of the artist—to echo over time.”

For more on Richard, visit:

Other Artwork at MCC

In addition to Hunt’s outdoor sculptures, MCC houses a vast, ever-growing collection of permanent art, on display both inside and outside the College. Four rotating art galleries supplement the several permanent art collections on campus.

The four galleries average about 30 exhibitions per year, including works from both emerging and established artists from local, regional, and national locales. The galleries feature diverse solo and group exhibitions with the intent of exposing students and the community to the wide range of media, styles, and content utilized in contemporary art practice. Visiting artists often present lectures and workshops in conjunction with these exhibitions. The galleries are also used for exhibits of student work and specific course-related installations and projects.

The Portrait in Print Collection is one of MCC’s largest permanent art collections, and is on display in the MCC library. This collection was a gift to the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation from Mary and Charles Liebman. It consists of over 250 fine art prints and includes a wide range of printmaking techniques—etching, intaglio, lithography, woodcut, and serigraphy.

Also in the permanent collection are six lithographs drawn by Richard Hunt in 1980. All six were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Will R. Petersen, also through the Friends of MCC Foundation.

All galleries are free and open to the public.