Small in stature, but bigger than life in attitude and impact, Bobbie Raymond left a legacy that lives on in Oak Park and beyond. Now she will forever be remembered with a bronze bust, permanently displayed on a stone pedestal in the courtyard at the Oak Park Art League (OPAL), 720 Chicago Ave., Oak Park.

A plaque on the pedestal lists Raymond’s many contributions: founding the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, which was instrumental in achieving racially diverse communities that became a national model; an artist and teacher at OPAL; a children’s book author; patron of the arts; involvement in the OPRF High School Alumni Association’s student scholarship program, and more. 

Oak Park artist Mike Vest with the Bobbie Raymond Memorial sculpture he created. (Photo provided by Oak Park Art League)

Raymond was a lifelong Oak Parker, born in 1938. She died in spring 2019. Later that year, her family donated much of her artwork, which was sold at an OPAL retrospective exhibition of Raymond’s paintings, prints and drawings. It included figural forms, landscapes and botanicals, particularly orchids. Some of the funds raised, about $2,000, went toward the memorial sculpture project, according to David Sokol, who worked with a team of “friends and volunteers.” Those who focused on the sculpture included former village president Larry Christmas, Camille Wilson White of the Oak Park Area Arts Council, and Sokol, who was a friend of Raymond. Others involved were Charles Raymond, Bobbie’s son; Carollina Song; Sandra Burns, Bobbie’s friend and attorney; and OPAL Executive Director Jill Kramer Goldstein. Another $24,000 was raised by the committee in a campaign for the memorial. Sokol said, “Approximately 70 individual and foundation donors contributed.”

The funds covered the artist’s fees and all costs to erect the memorial sculpture as well as a fund for maintenance. The sculptor is Mike Vest, an Oak Parker and OPAL member who knew Raymond. According to Sokol, Vest made “many sketches and models” and was in close contact with the committee.

“Bobbie and I were friends at OPAL, and we shared an interest in art and particularly figure drawing,” Vest said in a press release. “I remember Bobbie telling me, ‘If you can draw the figure, you could draw anything.’ Well, Bobbie was a lot more than ‘anything,’ and I do hope she was right and that others will enjoy the result of my many Bobbie drawings of 2020.”

Raymond was a fixture at OPAL for 40 years. She was responsible for keeping “Life Drawing” as a staple there and led the class for many years. It is still offered today.

The memorial sculpture seems to capture the woman while she is speaking, perhaps saying something important, making an impact.     

Her impact continues. The committee is expecting there will be funds remaining after all the bills are paid related to the sculpture and plans to use those for scholarships for the arts, according to Sokol. Raymond’s artwork will live on in the community too.

“Pieces of Bobbie’s art were accepted by the [Oak Park] Art League, The Nineteenth Century Charitable Trust, the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, and the OPRF High School Alumni Association,” Sokol said. 

Join the Bobbie Raymond Memorial dedication ceremony on Friday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m. It takes place in conjunction with the opening reception for the exhibition “Art & Music” at OPAL, which is also celebrating its centennial. Questions: 708-386-9853, oakparkartleague@gmail.com.

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