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 In 1927 our school came to be named after Josephine Carson Locke, a progressive educator. Above the threshold of the northeast door of our school is an elaborately-carved quotation: “Art Needs No Spur Beyond Itself.” This school is an acknowledgement of the educational achievements of Josephine Locke, the significance of her work, and the impact she had on Chicago’s school children, as well as children throughout the country.

Josephine Carson Locke was born in Ireland in 1851, of Irish, Scotch and English parentage. She gained prominence as supervisor of art in the Chicago Public schools, where she created an “art for children.” She based her methods on the new understanding of child psychology developed by such men as Froebel, John Dewey from the University of Chicago and Wm. T. Harris. Her interests focused in the Kindergarten movement then just starting to be established. Locke placed the child’s imagination at the center of art instruction while she discouraged teaching through imitation. She championed free expression and creative exercises in color, mass, drawing, free cutting, figure drawing, illustration, design and applied design, and encouraged participation of pupils in class discussion of results. Locke maintained the purpose of the elementary school was to develop well-rounded citizens. She recognized art as a legitimate subject because it stimulated creative-mindedness. According to an 1896 editorial in Arts for America, through her “energetic labors,” Locke unfolded art to thousands of Chicago’s school children, while influencing the work of teachers in the classroom.

Later, she became curator of the Art Institute in Chicago. She initiated the school children’s exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago which gave the citizens an opportunity to become better acquainted with the work of the schools. It became and annual affair at the AIC to which the city looked forward, and offered training specifically related to work done in the public schools to many interested teachers. Friends described her as a profound thinker, an untiring worker, an able teacher and an inspiring leader. Miss Locke died in 1919. She was 68 years old and resided in Los Angeles, California at the time of her death.

The information for this article was found in A Study of Josephine Locke, Her Influence on Elementary Art Education in the Chicago Public Schools and Her Work at the Art Institute of Chicago, a dissertation by Debora A. Corcoran, 2005.