GBN names 2012 Distinguished Alumnus
From the time Dennis Downes entered Glenbrook North, he knew he was destined to follow his passions in the arts. Now a well respected, highly acclaimed member of the art community, his path to success has been anything but easy.
Glenbrook North has named Downes, a 1969 graduate, this year’s Distinguished Alumnus.
“Looking back 43 years ago, this is definitely something I did not think would ever happen,” he said. “Just to be mentioned in the same company as previous award winners such as scientists, composers, lawyers, filmmakers and Olympians is accomplishment enough. But to actually receive the award is truly a great honor.”
While at GBN, Downes spent his time pursuing academics, athletics, and art. Though he struggled with articulating his creative ideas in English, he recalls a supportive environment and encouraging teachers that gave him the research and writing skills to write and publish a book later in his life - “Native American Trail Marker Trees Marking Paths Through the Wilderness.”
Guided by art teacher Guido Chigi, Downes also began to experiment with his own unique style of art and create a body of work that would continue to grow throughout the rest of his life.
The diverse experiences and people he encountered at GBN provided him with what he described as “more than just a textbook education,” opening the door to a dignified opportunity in the art world.
He has found success through many forms of art. He was commissioned to create a historic bronze statue of Captain George Wellington Streeter, an 8-foot piece that marks the Streeterville neighborhood in Chicago.
His creation of Trail Marker Tree, a 16-foot statue influenced by the heritage of his Native American relatives, combines his craft with his extensive academic research. He also utilizes ancient Native American techniques in creating handmade frames for his paintings, many of which are done with his own handmade paper.
In 1999, Downes was awarded the Design Journal Award for Design Excellence for one of his watercolors that was made into a hand woven tapestry. He has received much recognition for other forms of his work as well, such as when he was awarded Best in Show at the “Festival of Masters” in 2007 for Mixed-Media and in 2008 for painting.
“I have been fortunate enough to win numerous awards over the years for my artistic accomplishments, proclamations from governors and mayors in several states,” Downes said. “None of that compares to the feeling I had at Glenbrook North’s graduation while standing in front of the graduating class and their parents and teachers receiving this award.”
Downes currently resides in Lake County, IL with his wife Gail.