Corbett, Sterns Building 12x12" acrylic collage on canvas
After being left empty for the past 26 years, in November 2014 the Sterns Building in Waukegan, Illinois (so named because the last occupant was the Stern's clothing store) was demolished, quickly collapsing on itself, ending that long, slow decay. It made me sad and wishing that someone could have saved it. I loved how the once fashionable building still looked so regal even in its down-on-its-luck state, especially that magnificent round green tower at the corner of Genesee and Water Streets. The Sterns Building is much like the city of Waukegan, a once thriving place that is now fighting to survive.
I love Waukegan- how the people who live here try over and over to raise this phoenix from the ashes.. People her love the old buildings and how the city seems frozen in time. I love that this city attracts artists, musicians, club owners and all who are wild at heart. They won't let the city die. Many Waukegan residents came to photograph and video the demolition of this building. I knew, as everyone did, that it was too far gone to save- but losing it was like losing an old person who could tell you stories about how things used to be. I am saving this building in the only way I can- and that is to make art of it so it becomes immortal.
I exhibited the painting pictured on the left at the Dandelion Gallery (just next door to the Stern's building). The man who purchased it said that his father bought all all his clothes at Stern's and that they were all ugly by the son's standards. He particularly remembers his father being so proud of a chartreuse green shirt. This painting will be a fond reminder of his father and of the building like a memento from a wake.
I am optimistic that Waukegan is moving toward a better future and it will thrive. It is still important to pay attention to what is disappearing.