Picture Perfect: Portrait honors popular educator, former Evanston mayor
Former Mayor Lorraine H. Morton and her predeccessor Jay Lytle share a moment after unveiling her portrait Monday at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. |Judy Fidkowski~For Pioneer Press
Updated: April 1, 2013 7:07AM
EVANSTON — As mayor from 1993 to 2009, Lorraine H. Morton was seldom at a loss for words, whether chairing a rowdy city council meeting or performing the perfunctory duties of office, which she took a special delight in doing.
It was a different story Monday night when she was back in the building that bears her name, the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, in a ceremony crammed with supporters.
Morton, now 94, could only manage an exclamation of delight at first – a “Whew!” – when a cover was pulled back on a painting bearing her likeness.
“That is gorgeous,” reacted the mayor, admiring the likeness.
“How long will that picture last?” she asked the creator, renown portrait artist Richard Halstead, quickly finding her characteristic spunk.
“I have to tell you I’m just enthralled this is all happening,” a beaming Morton said. “This is gorgeous,” she continued, “but in addition to that I thank all of you for coming out. It’s so good to see people who have supported me from day one.”
Current Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl (who was appointed to her aldermanic post by Morton) came up with the idea for the project. A photograph of Morton along with other mayors already is on display right outside chambers.
Tisdahl said she wanted the portrait to go with the city’s earlier renaming of the civic center, Evanston’s city hall, in Morton’s honor.
In addition, the portrait is intended to coincide with African-America History Month.
Another motivation, quipped Tisdahl, “is you don’t come by enough, Lorraine,” she said.
Halstead had done a series of paintings previously, showing city employees in different lines of work.
He said he long thought “as many did” that something should be done to recognize Morton for all her contributions.
“When Mayor Tisdahl suggested I paint a portrait, it gave me an opportunity in fact to create a special tribute,” he said Monday.
He said the portrait was composed, working primarily from the photographs taken by two talented Evanston photographers, Rich Forman and Genie Lemieux.
“In a way this is a collaboration between the three of us,” he told Morton supporters, crowded into the room.
He said he pieced together the images from the photographs into a composite portrait, trying to capture different periods of Morton’s service as a public service.
Halstead said he found fascinating, how the onetime Haven Middle School principal “could engage you in a way that is comforting and never allow you to become complacent.
“She can lull you with that beautiful voice,” he said, “and the next thing you know she (engages) you on some very important issue or she creates a perception you hadn’t considered.”
Elizabeth Brasher, the mayor’s daughter, at the ceremony, voiced approval. She said she had checked with Halstead as the work progressed.
“I knew when it was finished it was going to be great,” she said. “It’s humbling … I’m just happy for mom that this has happened to her.”