The John Bell, Jr. Legacy Project:
Treasured Tales to Come
Let us all create a new inspirational gift for us, our children, and our children’s children, by compiling a community spoken remembrance of John Bell, Jr. This oral history will be one of the community outreach elements of the John Bell, Jr. Legacy Project. We can’t wait to begin, and you’re invited!
Robert Morgan shares his John Bell, Jr. tales in RAM’s media room for the community oral history of the artist’s life and legacy.
I was in school with him. He seemed a little older than the rest of the students in his grade. At that time, you could buy a penny postcard. Well, he started designing postcards himself, and he was selling them for a nickel! He was excelling at capitalism.”
John Bell, Jr. never had to overcome a handicap to utilize his talent as an artist. His art was never “handicapped art” or the art of the handicapped. He was always capable of great art, brilliant art, art that stood on its own.”
Bill Kropp, III, nephew of John Bell, Jr.
When I was raising funds for the Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, John was involved, and always donated his art to our fund raisers. Then I was around him when I was director of the Fort Smith Art Center from 2000 to 2006. He exhibited there, and donated as well. He and Maxine were very outgoing and interesting to talk to. I think John made people feel at ease discussing art. They were both wonderful.”
I offered to do some computer work for free for John and Maxine – it was a simple task they didn’t need to pay for. My visit to their home lasted a lot longer than the time on the computer. It was thrilling to hear his stories about his childhood, about his interest in art, and how he got started painting. As I was leaving, he told me to run down to Suzy’s Frame Shop and pick out a framed print as a gift from him. I already owned several. The real thrill for me was just sitting in John Bell’s dining room visiting.”
Once, he was living temporarily with his sister — my wife, Lil — and me in our house. He had had some setbacks and was a little down. After a couple of weeks, Lil told me to try to motivate him. I guess I was a little agitated and I told him to either ‘start doing some art or mow the lawn or something!’ The next day I came home from work, and there he was, in his wheelchair, pulling the lawnmower from a rope he held in his teeth. He made his point, didn’t he? Ha, ha! I’m sure I went down 20 notches with the entire neighborhood.
He was an exceptional man. I don’t know of anyone who is his equal.”
Bill Kropp, II, brother-in-law of John Bell, Jr.