Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Museum of Art



Steve Christensen

LUMA Presents Fifth Annual Crèche Exhibition

Crèche of the Year: Lincoln Memorial On View Now in Special Preview

CHICAGO, November 14, 2012 – The beloved holiday exhibition Art and Faith of the Crèche: The Collection of James and Emilia Govan returns this November for its fifth year at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). The exhibition, featuring more than 100 nativity scenes from over 50 states and countries, will be on view from November 20 through January 13, 2013.

James Govan and his late wife, Emilia, traveled the world assembling their collection and creating an international network of friends. This year, Art and Faith of the Crèche will highlight the stories of the colleagues, friends, and even strangers who helped build the collection. “In one year, for example, we received crèches from each of four former professional colleagues working in Africa, a Catholic priest in Arizona who had located a Navajo carver, a New Zealand carver I knew only through e-mail contact, and some dear family friends working in Hungary,” said James Govan.  

The exhibition will also include a world map so that visitors can visualize the international journey of the crèches and locate their countries of origin.

This year, in a nod to the election season, LUMA has chosen as its 2012 Crèche of the Year a nativity scene featuring presidents and other figures from American history. The crèche, created by Les and Hanneke Ippisch, from Montana, was put on view at the museum in early October during a special preview of the exhibition. In the work, the Lincoln Memorial stands in for the stable, and an American eagle perches on the roof overlooking Betsy Ross (Mary) and Benjamin Franklin (Joseph). The Three Wise Men are depicted as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt, and Paul Revere stands by on his horse. Rose bushes symbolize the White House rose garden and a cherry tree recalls the George Washington legend. Lastly, and especially appropriate for this election season, a donkey and an elephant symbolize the Democratic and Republican parties.

“This is the most entertaining crèche we have shown to date and certainly the first one we have seen with a historical theme,” said Pamela Ambrose, director of cultural affairs for Loyola University Chicago.

Each crèche in the exhibition tells an international story of local architecture, costumes, flora, and fauna that clearly identifies where the crèche was made. Ambrose added, “I look forward to this exhibition each year as being a wonderful learning experience in geography and culture, as well as telling the story of the birth of Christ. A mother and father, with a baby on the way, face adversity with no place to stay, but then there is the joy of the newborn and the recognition of how special the infant is. It is a story that can appeal to everyone.”

This year, LUMA is also spreading the Christmas cheer to its sister institution, the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, Illinois, where an exhibition of 15 crèches will be displayed throughout the house. For more on the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, visit LUC.edu/cuneo.

Public Programming

All events take place at LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue.

Opening Reception

Thursday, November 29, 5:30–7 p.m.

Join us to celebrate the opening of Art and Faith of the Crèche and LUMA’s other winter exhibitions. Admission is $15 and free for LUMA members.

Meet the Collector

Saturday, December 1, 11:15 a.m.

James Govan began collecting crèches with his late wife, Emilia, in the 1970s. To date, he has amassed more than 500 crèches from over 100 countries and cultures. Stop in and enjoy this informal tour with Mr. Govan as he discusses his favorite pieces and the stories behind them. This tour is free with museum admission.

Meet the Curators

Tuesday, December 11, 6 p.m.

Join us for this free tour of Art and Faith of the Crèche and Mirroring the Saints with LUMA’s Ann Meehan, curator of education, and Jonathan Canning, senior curator.

Christmas Traditions in 19th-Century Illinois

Thursday, December 13, 6 p.m.

This year, Art and Faith of the Crèche will feature the Lincoln Memorial crèche. In honor of this special crèche, LUMA will host a lecture by James M. Cornelius, PhD, curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Presidential Library in Springfield. Christmas in 19th-century Illinois meant a tree, music, presents, and decorations, but it also meant bawdy theater, regional and religious hostilities, 12-hour days, and unheated rooms. Come learn why Abraham Lincoln was pictured as Santa Claus, why so much “funny money” floated around, and why some of our oldest traditions are not that old. Admission is $4 and free for LUMA members and Loyola students, faculty, and staff.

Image Credit: Hanneke and Les Ippisch, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, crafted in Montana, wood, paper, wire, ribbon, The James and Emilia Govan Crèche Collection; generously sponsored by Ms. Joyce Ruth Saxon, a Martin D’Arcy Society member and LUMA docent

About LUMA
Opened in 2005, the Loyola University Museum of Art is dedicated to exploring, promoting, and understanding art and artistic expression that illuminates the enduring spiritual questions of all cultures and societies. As a museum with an interest in education and educational programming, LUMA reflects the University’s Jesuit mission and is dedicated to helping people of all creeds explore the roots of their faith and spiritual quests. Located at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus, the museum occupies the first three floors of the University’s historic Lewis Towers on Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue. For more information, visit the museum’s website at LUC.edu/luma.

Art illuminating the spirit!