One of the more outstanding things about The J, is its collection of fine art. Some 215 pieces of art, valued at more than $1 million and representing roughly 50 artists, were all donated to by Jewish philanthropist and developer Michael Staenberg. And within the collection, one artist stands out, as having the most pieces, 56, included in The J’s collection. That artist is James Smith.
James Smith and Michael Staenberg
For many years, Smith worked with Staenberg, who was the force behind the development of JCCs not only in St. Louis, but in Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, and St. Paul. Smith’s work can be found on display in those facilities’ public collections.
“James Michael Smith conducted a tremendous amount of research to create these images in conjunction with the Jewish beliefs and the facilities that these works of art were created for,” said Maneta Siegel, the former director at the Gallery At The District.
Sadly, Smith passed away in March of this year at the age of 73. Soon after his passing, an exhibition opened, honoring Smith and his work at the Gallery At The District.
At the opening of the exhibit, Staenberg remembered his friend and commented on how Smith, through his art, learned much about Judaism.
All of the work in the exhibit is for sale with proceeds going to Smith’s family, and to help support other artists in the form of a new scholarship honoring Smith.
Recently, James Smith’s wife, Mary announced she is organizing a new scholarship at the University of Illinois, where Smith earned his Masters of Fine Art. He also began his university professor career teaching Fine Art as a graduate student in Champagne.
The James Michael Smith Endowed Scholarship will benefit the School of Art & Design in the college of Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Recipients shall be Studio Art majors in good academic standing with a concentration in painting. Preference shall be given to students primarily in painting, drawing, printmaking and/or sculpture and can be utilized for tuition, materials, and art tools.