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Naperville artists make Hall of Fame

April 22, 2008 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Erika Wurst, The Beacon News

For the fourth time since its inception, the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame will welcome new members, those selected by lovers of art for their passion, their talent and, perhaps most importantly, their connection to the area.

Two Naperville residents are among seven area artists being inducted this week. Dick Locher, 78, artist and author of the Dick Tracy comic strip, and choreographer Kenneth von Heidecke, 55, join five other area inductees: musician Martin Brody, formerly of Elgin; architect John Cordogan, Sugar Grove; artist/author Mike Venezia, Glen Ellyn; and poet Ingrid Wendt and soprano Anne McKnight, both formerly of Aurora.


The cartoonist

Before Locher was an award-winning cartoonist, he was merely a school boy with a page full of doodles.

"You would get kicked out of class for drawing cartoons," the nearly 80-year-old man recalls. "But I had one instructor who snuck up behind me (while I was drawing) and said, 'Keep at it, you might have a future.' I look back quite fondly on that."

And so should the legions of people who come across Locher's work every day. From Life Magazine to Newsweek, from the White House to your own home, Locher's drawings have intrigued both presidents and schoolchildren alike for decades.

As one of the leading editorial cartoonists at the Chicago Tribune, where he has worked since 1973, Locher has made a living poking fun at political figures.

But in addition to his editorial work, Locher also reaches an estimated 10 million people a day as the author and illustrator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, on which he's been working for a quarter century.

The Naperville resident wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. with a blank piece of paper. From there, he's got several hours to find out which political figure to put on blast.

"The best thing is being able to skewer people I don't agree with," Locher said. "I'm like 007. I've got a license to slay." And a Pulitzer Prize to boot.


The choreographer

Kenneth von Heidecke had a busy week last week.

He returned to Chicago on Saturday from San Diego, where he just spent four weeks choreographing a production of Verdi's Aida. Unfortunately, he had to miss the opening night to come back and start work on Prokofiev's Cinderella. And although the English National Opera wanted him to come to London this week to stage The Merry Widow, von Heidecke just couldn't make it.

All in all, not bad for the former ballet dancer who thought his career was over in 1981 when a mid-air collision on stage tore his knees apart and ended his performing days

Von Heidecke proved he was no one-trick pony, though, going effortlessly from dancer to choreographer

His career choice crystallized in 1975, when he auditioned for prima ballerina Maria Tallchief to perform in a George Balanchine-choreographed version of Orfeo ed Euridice at the Lyric Opera.

Out of 200 men, he was one of two chosen, and Tallchief immediately took to the young talent. The two formed a strong bond that continues to this day; in 2006, she officially named von Heidecke her protege.

In 1990, the Milwaukee Ballet offered to make him artistic director, but Tallchief had another suggestion

"Maria said if you sign a contract, your hands will be tied," von Heidecke said. "(She said) I think you should found your own school."

And so the von Heidecke School of Ballet was born in Naperville.

"Naperville is booming with new families and children," von Heidecke said. "I thought, this is ideal."

Sun-Times News Group

Locher von Heidecke


Section: OBITS — Page: 23