Jevoid Simmons is a 40-year resident of Evanston, IL. He and his life partner (wife) Dickelle Fonda are proud parents of Seth Simmons. Seth also resides in Evanston. Simmons retired two and a half years ago after a 35-year career in management as a human resource professional. The last 17 years were spent with the Art Institute of Chicago where he served as Director of Employee Relations and Training for the School and Museum. Central to his work was policy development, conflict resolution, managerial effectiveness and diversity equity and inclusion.
Simmons considers himself to be a work in progress. Embracing retirement, his mantra, is “I’m working to be the me I’m meant to be at this time in life”. In this life segment, a good deal of his time is devoted to making art. This has been a life-long love for Simmons. Though he has worked in a number of artistic styles, he considers his current art making to be more in line with folk and primitive art. Simmons paints and carves and has exhibited his work locally at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center (April – October 2019); Evanston’s Noyes Cultural Art Center; the Evanston Art Center; Garrett Theological Seminary (Northwestern University); The Art Institute of Chicago and Creative Co-working Gallery.
This Spring Simmons’ first book Up From Down Home, A Family’s Journey North, will be published. The book tells of his family’s migration out of rural Alabama in the early 1950’s. Like so many, his family was part of the mass exodus of Black folks out of the South for survival and better opportunities.
Simmons volunteers in the local community and served on the Evanston Art Council’s Art Equity Subcommittee.
As long as I can remember I’ve been an art maker. I’m not grounded in any specific artistic system. Art classes were a part of my educational experience from grade through junior high school. Of all the schooling received in those years, the art classes resonated with me; they fed my soul. I’m always amazed with the art produced by others, past and present and incorporate learnings from them where it makes sense. When painting I enjoy working in a primitive style. It’s not tied to the necessity of precision. It has a certain warmth and tranquility in the presence of turbulent surroundings and events of the day. I have an affinity for the work of Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson). Her work and that of similar artists capture a snapshot of life and tell a story.
As you view paintings that I have exhibited in Chicago and the suburbs, you may see similarities to Grandma Moses’ style. These and fourteen paintings support a written narrative regarding my family’s migration out of rural Alabama in the early 1950’s. I was the last of four boys born in Alabama. Twelve more siblings would be born in Iowa. There’s a twenty-five year span between the oldest to the youngest sibling in our family. This project has been an effort to connect our past, present and future generations. My hope is that other parents and family elders will share their own family story/ history with their children and grandchildren.
The paintings are part of my upcoming book, Up from down Home: A Family’s Journey North. The paintings were executed over a seven-year period with the last one completed in 2015. My hope was that the warm, tranquil style will invite the viewer into the picture. However; the related written narratives convey the extra ordinary hardships and the life and death struggle faced by Black folks living in the South under Jim Crow. The book will be available late April.
In addition to painting, I’m a woodcarver and storyteller. My carvings are ongoing and capture family, friends, acquaintances and other characters from the past. The carvings are a part of a collection I call Sugar Creek Folks.