By Angela Mennecke
Jennifer Hereth, College of DuPage art professor, and her students are known for giving back to the community. It came as no surprise when she and her students were asked to volunteer their time and skills on a local art project hosted by Wheaton’s Fine & Cultural Arts Commission to celebrate the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open Championship at the historic Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton this July.
To commemorate the historic occasion, the City of Wheaton launched the Wheaton Golf Ball Project—a display of 18 3-foot-diameter, fiberglass golf balls painted by local female artists. Each golf ball is sponsored by a local business or community group with each artist painting to the theme of their sponsor.
Hereth and her students’ original idea was to transform the dimpled ball into a cheetah print with hot pink accents, but that quickly changed course when they found out the host of the golf tournament, the United States Golf Association, wanted the finished work to be displayed permanently at the USGA Museum in New Jersey.
“We didn’t want to make something silly or cute, so my students and I had to put our heads together to come up with something that would represent this historic moment,” Hereth said. “Not only is this tournament being held at the Chicago Golf Club, which is the first 18-hole course in the country, but it’s a time to celebrate women.”
That’s when Hereth remembered that one of her advanced art students, Samantha DeCarlo (Elmhurst), had recently painted an intricate self-portrait. To Hereth, the portrait symbolized a young woman looking forward to the future. What better way to commemorate this historic tournament than a portrait of a woman looking forward to opportunities on the horizon, she reasoned.
“We didn’t know we would be using my face as the focal point when we signed up for this, so that’s been a little strange but rewarding at the same time,” DeCarlo said.
The idea took flight and the finished golf ball represents a homage to women in golf. In addition to the self-portrait of DeCarlo, the ball contains silhouettes of women throughout the eras of golf from the 1890s through today that Hereth and her students recreated after spending time looking through the USGA archives. View photos of DeCarlo and Hereth painting the golf ball.
DeCarlo, one of the lead student artists on the project, attended the American Academy of Art, receiving a degree in illustration. After graduating, she began working at Bottle & Bottega in Elmhurst as a painting instructor but wanted more specialized painting experience.
“I never took painting in college and really regretted it,” DeCarlo said. “I looked up classes at COD and fell in love with (Hereth’s) work and wanted to learn from her.”
With her extensive painting background, Hereth used this painting project as an opportunity to further her student’s skills by using sponges, stencils and other unique tools.
“I wanted to make the ball visually appealing from all angles,” she said. “My students and I all agreed that we wanted to not just focus on the subject matter, but wanted this to be a complex, eye-catching piece of art.”
COD art student Karolina Szumilas (Oswego) jumped at the opportunity to help paint the golf ball despite the painting taking place during finals week.
“Professor Hereth has taught me so much in my two years at COD,” she said. “To be able to use my talents on something that will give back to the community, and women, was important to me.”
DeCarlo, Hereth and Szumilas all hope that the paintings on the golf ball will inspire young girls to not feel held back in whatever endeavor they choose.
“To me, this ball means everything,” DeCarlo said. “Progress, evolution. The times are changing and people are changing.”
The COD golf ball, along with the other community balls will be on display starting May 31 during an unveiling at the Taste of Wheaton. The COD ball will then be on display at Town Square Wheaton Shopping Center until the end of August, before heading to its permanent home at the USGA museum in Liberty Corner, New Jersey.
Caption: COD art student Samantha DeCarlo hard at work painting her self-portrait. (Photo by Press Photography Network/Special to College of DuPage)