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Artist Ken Holder Passes Away

Laura Kennedy
Ken Holder toured the Come Together space in downtown Bloomington in 2015 with GLT's Laura Kennedy before a sale and restrospective exhibit of Holder's life work.

Famed central Illinois artist Ken Holder has passed away at the age of 82.

The emeritus professor of art at Illinois State University was active for more than half a century. Holder was known for his landscapes but worked in a variety of media and subjects over the decades.

In a 2015 interview with GLT's Laura Kennedy before a massive exhibit and sale, Holder said he accumulated a great trove of unsold works over his career.

"The most important thing to me was to find a home for all my orphans. I think of it that way. When somebody buys one of these paintings they ought to remember they are adopting it and I have visitation rights. I try to make that really clear that if I want to see that painting, I'm coming," said Holder.

Holder told Kennedy he invested a lot of feeling in his paintings and drawings and found it hard to let them go.

That's one of the reasons I have accumulated so much over the years and haven't done a better job of getting rid of things or recycling them earlier is because every one of them means something to me and I hate to say goodbye to them. So, I have stockpiled them for fifty years now," said Holder.

One of Holder's best known projects was a multi-year effort of painting scenes along the Lewis and Clark Trail.

He had been ill. Holder is survived by his wife Jan, two daughters, and grandchildren.

Holder is the second major central Illinois artist to pass away in the last several months. Noted landscapist Harold Gregor of Bloomington died earlier this fall.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Ken Holder was 82, not 83, at the time of his death.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.