Isthmus Jazz Festival in Wisconsin Featured Artist Jerry Butler

Article excerpt

MADISON, Wisc.--When Jerry Butler was growing up in the segregated South, he thought he was going to be the first African American artist. Even from his earliest years as a child in rural Mississippi, Butler found ways to express himself through art. Only later did he learn about the long and beautiful tradition that preceded him.

It is with this tradition, that the Friends of the Madison Civic Center here named Jerry Butler the featured artist for the 2000 Isthmus Jazz Festival. Butler's design for this year's event depicted a trio singing and playing music in a collage style much like that of the late Jacob Lawrence.

"I want my writing and my paintings to capture the truth of the African-American experience. That truth embodies the wisdom and the grace of those who came before us and the hope of those to follow," Butler said. "I was given the responsibility as the `school artist,' which had a very positive affect on me."

As one of the features of the festival, a collection of Butler's original artwork was on display last month in the Madison Civic Center's gallery. …