Some Years Later: Art Exhibition Reunites Alumni from across the Globe

Steve Sager (left) and Howard Kanter (right)

Thirty years ago, Howard Kanter (BFA '91, MA '94, Art Education) and his best friend Steve Sager (BFA '91 Sculpture, MA '94 Art Education) put on a student art show at the Illini Union. On December 6, Kanter opened a new solo show—Some Years Later—that brought them back together.

Friends since childhood, the two were roommates and fellow art students at Illinois. Today, Kanter teaches middle school art in Des Plaines while Sager is an art, yoga, and English language teacher in Japan. Sager traveled to Champaign to reunite with his friend at the show's opening reception.

AgerAnter Close-Up
One of the six "AgerAnters" in the exhibit

While they may live continents apart, they stay connected through art. In collaborative pieces dubbed "AgerAnters" (a play on their last names), one artist begins a new work and then ships it overseas to his friend—painting, revising, and then sharing again. How do they know when a piece is done? "We don't," said Sager with a laugh, explaining that the process naturally plays out or begins anew as they wish. Kanter's new exhibition includes six such "AgerAnters," alongside his solo drawings, paintings, and sculptures.

The works reflect Kanter's sense of humor and playfulness, as well as his passion for the process of making. His overarching philosophy is simple: "Process is content." He explained, "It's the paint, the marks that you make on the canvas, the relationship of color and form, shape, and line that I'm so drawn to." These are the fundamentals that he brings to his middle school art students.

"We don't do class crafts with sticks and glitter. We talk about artists like van Gogh, and we paint and draw, and they really respond to it," he said. "It's become more and more important to be makers; they're not in front of a computer screen in my room, except as a resource on certain projects."

For his own art, Kanter's subject matter varies but is frequently inspired by travels with his family. "It's not just about what you paint, but how you paint," he explained. Rather than depict the typical monuments and attractions of their travels, he is interested in the ordinary—capturing a rolling landscape viewed through a window, for example.

"I like taking the mundane and painting it in a way that makes it interesting," he noted.

Kanter is proud of his family of past, current, and future Illini: his wife, Sharon (Arnold) Kanter (LAS '91, LAW '94), who has served as a Cook County state's attorney for more than 25 years; their daughter, Carli, a first-year art education student at Illinois; and their son, Jack, a high school sophomore who Kanter hopes will enroll in the future.

Some Years Later is on view now through January 31 at the Illini Union Art Gallery.