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All That Jazz exhibit opens at Ohio Northern University’s Stambaugh Gallery

January—Posters make ideas visual for all kinds of causes including social change, struggles for peace, and icon political campaigns. These visual messages can also document time and place and define a culture.

All That Jazz: A selection of Jazz Posters from the Collection of Howard Courtney is on view at the Stambaugh Studio Theatre Gallery from January 17–February 17, 2012 at Ohio Northern University. The exhibit showcases about 50 works out of over 1,200 posters, representing several countries and the Chicago jazz scene.

The collector Howard Courtney has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, an M.A. in Arabic, a graduate certificate in Middle Eastern Studies and additional graduate work in Mesopotamian Archaeology and Persian Literature. He taught at several junior colleges in the United States and at the Birzeit University in Jordan, where he lived in the Middle East for several years. Courtney eventually worked as a parole agent, supervising mental patients and sex offenders when they were released from the penitentiary. Due to the dangerous job, Courtney retired 20 years ago.

“I often joke that I was a born collector and started collecting when I was a child,” stated Courtney as he described his poster collection. “Over the years my interests have included specialized stamp collections, stained glass windows, Persian carpets, World War I posters, art, ancient Middle Eastern pottery, antiques, art pottery, autographs and Jazz posters.”

Courtney has been a jazz fan since my early teen-years, “due to my parents’ interest in such,” he explained. “But also having lived in small towns, or out-of-the-way places, there was not much of an opportunity to see the major participants in person. Consequently, I had to live my jazz fantasies through recordings and reading about the musicians.”

While attending junior college in his hometown of Port Huron, Michigan, “I met a handful of others whom were also interested in jazz. We formed a jazz club and would travel the 60 miles to Detroit to attend concerts. Over the years, I bought many recordings of the musicians I liked and currently have over 4,000 jazz CDs, 300 classical and 100 opera CDs. Although I played the saxophone in the high school band and took piano lessons, I realized I had absolutely no talent. So, I gave it up after graduation. But, after college, I sang in the chorus of Opera Illinois for 11 years.”

Throughout Courtney’s lifetime, he had the opportunity to maintain his interests in jazz and to see many performers live in concert. Reviewing his collection, he explained, “With the rich history of Chicago jazz and the opportunity to attend a performance almost daily, I began to ask for posters once a performance was over. Soon I knew which stores, hallways and bulletin boards would have them. Seven years later, I had over 1,300 different posters from 1927 to the current week. Now, I am well known to Chicago jazz musicians fans as “The Poster Man.”

Courtney’s criteria for collecting a poster comprised of the genuine advertisements created at the time for an actual event. “I do not knowingly collect later printings or posters that only have a jazz theme. Without me asking, numerous well-known musicians from all over the world have given me posters of their performances once we have met and they see how serious I am about them. Most musicians never see the posters they are listed on as they fly to a performance. Often they are astounded when I appear and ask them to autograph a 30-year old poster they were listed on as they often didn’t know existed.”

Courtney’s jazz poster collection is currently archived at the University of Chicago Library that holds accumulations of autographs, photographs, programs, flyers, tickets, business cards, etc. “They have approached me several times about donating my poster collection, but that is a decision I will make in the future. Since I have no musical talent, my philosophy is that my contribution to jazz history is preserving the posters and other memorabilia.”

Admission to the Stambaugh Studio Theatre Gallery is free and open to the public daily from 8a.m. to 5p.m. The Stambaugh Gallery is also open prior to Freed Center events. For additional information, to schedule a tour or to be placed on the arts exhibition mailing list, please contact the department of art & design at (419) 772-2160 or

Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2011–12 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: The Duke Ellington Orchestra in Frankfort, Germany on October 30, 1973. Size: 23" x 33"