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In Good Company- Jim Julin

Jim Julin

Photograph by Nels Akerlund Photography + Video

308 W State St., Rockford 

When Jim Julin died unexpectedly in 2012, news of his passing lit up Facebook. Plans for an informal gathering outside the Rockford Art Museum quickly germinated, and 200 of his friends and fans gathered two days later to remember the artist and craftsman who had lit up their lives.

As dusk turned to dark, they stood around the "Big Chair," an iconic Julin creation that had greeted museum visitors and passing motorists for years. Some came with candles and flowers; everyone brought memories of his remarkable art, his cheery nature and his deep, booming voice.

Julin was best known for his sculptures made from recycled materials and for his husky build, long gray hair and thick gray beard. He was also an expert gardener, and his "Fire and Ice" exhibits were a popular attraction during New Year's Eve festivals downtown.

Especially in the arts community, Julin's sudden death at 56 from advanced cancer discovered during emergency hernia surgery came as a shock. A year later, 30 of his colleagues opened an exhibit called "Big Man" to pay homage to Julin's creative and personal largesse. Participants chose pieces that illustrated the influence of his work on theirs or that spoke to the nature of their friendship.

The year before his death, the art museum opened the "Rockford Made 4356," showcasing what was then thought to be a "mid-career look at the thought-provoking work" of native sons Julin and John Deill, both born April 3, 1956 in the same hospital. Julin's work is represented in the RAM Permanent Collection. 

(Written by Mark Bonne) 

Spotlight On Rockford