The Society of Illustrators is pleased to bestow Jon McDonald with the 2019 Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award. This award honors an educator who has attained the highest standards of academic achievement and impacted the illustration field as both a teacher and artist.
Jon McDonald is a professor of Illustration and Department Chair at Kendall College of of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, where he has taught since 1980. From 2008 – 2017 he served as the program chair. Under his leadership, the Illustration program achieved record enrollment at KCAD, with many students having gone on to win awards and accolades from prestigious organizations including the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship and Illustrators Annual.
McDonald’s own academic work includes a certificate from KCAD in 1969 and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972. Before moving to Grand Rapids and joining KCAD, McDonald lived in Los Angeles were he began his freelance illustration career and took his first steps into education by teaching drawing and painting at “Everyone’s Village” in Los Angeles.
McDonald’s paintings cover a variety of significant topics. He has addressed environmental issues with an array of paintings after a trip to Costa Rica, and was commissioned to create a series of portraits on Native Americans in South Dakota. His collection “Slavery’s Chill” takes a painful and important historical look at the lives of enslaved families and peoples and their journey to freedom in the US. He toured his series of portraits of heroes and role models throughout inner city schools and white suburban schools to educate students on the important work of African-Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos. Portraits included a wide -variety of groundbreaking leaders like movie producer Spike Lee, former U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan, blues guitarist Taj Mahal, shuttle astronaut Fred Gregory, and pediatric neurosurgeon Alexa Canady, among others.
McDonald’s prolific freelance career also includes various mural paintings as well as advertising work for large corporations. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a Giants Award in 1995, and was inducted into Grand Haven High School’s hall of fame.