UNCF expresses condolences at the passing of the iconic sculptor Richard Hunt

We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of world-renowned sculptor and artist Richard Hunt. Hunt’s artistic contributions to UNCF and his significant impact through his artwork will always be remembered.

“Richard was a great friend of UNCF—a magnificent artist and spirit,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax. Hunt generously donated his sculptures for fundraising events and auctions organized by UNCF.

Richard Hunt's Book Bird, 1985 Cast Bronze

Richard Hunt’s Book Bird, 1985 Cast Bronze

In 1985, UNCF Chicago conducted a fundraiser saluting corporate donors called the Benefactors Luncheon. Hunt’s wife, Lenora Cartright Hunt, was a consultant to UNCF to plan the first event. She asked Richard to create an award for the honorees. Hunt created and donated to UNCF the beautiful bronze Book Bird Award. This prestigious award has been presented to several of Chicago’s finest corporate citizens. Recipients demonstrated their commitment to the UNCF through extraordinary philanthropy and volunteer service. Distinguished recipients included Assistant Secretary of State Charles A. Meyer, publisher John H. Johnson, politician John H. Stroger, Jr., businesswoman Eunice W. Johnson, and mayor Richard M. Daley. The Book Bird Award was given to President George H. W. Bush in 1989 by UNCF President Christopher Edley. The legacy of presenting the award at that luncheon continued each year and then into the days of the first Black and White Ball in 2001 and beyond.

UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax received the last two Book Bird Awards created for the UNCF National Dinner honorees in New York. Dr. Lomax presented Richard Hunt with the UNCF Legacy Award at the Black and White Ball in 2010 to show his endearing appreciation and gratitude to his lasting contribution to UNCF Chicago and long-standing commitment to minority education. Hunt donated an original creation for the live auction at that event to raise more money for scholarships.

Hunt used his platform and influence to advocate for UNCF and historically Black colleges and universities. Through public appearances, interviews and collaborations, he helped raise awareness about the importance of equal access to education and the opportunities provided by UNCF to students of color.

His support for UNCF was a testament to his commitment to social and educational causes and his belief in the power of art to make a positive impact in the world.

Richard Hunt's Monumental Book Bird, Welded and cast bronzeReading Garden, Obama Presidential Center, Chicago

Richard Hunt’s Monumental Book Bird, Welded and cast bronze
Reading Garden, Obama Presidential Center, Chicago

The legacy of Hunt’s artistic genius and the award he created will continue to have a wonderful place in history at the Obama Presidential Center on the south side of Chicago. On Feb. 26, 2022, the Obama Foundation announced the commission of the monumental sculpture Book Bird for the reading garden of the Obama Presidential Center.  The sculpture as completed is an elaboration from the piece Hunt created as an award to supporters of the UNCF.

“This beautiful piece encapsulates the progress one can make through reading—embodying the inspiration we hope all young people take away when they visit the Obama Presidential Center,” stated the Obama Foundation.  Click here to view a wonderful video announcement made by President Obama during a special interview with Hunt where he recounts the history of creating the sculpture for UNCF. President Obama stated that “Richard Hunt is one of the greatest artists Chicago has ever produced.”

President Obama paid his respects with a personal visit to Hunt just before Richard Hunt’s passing. The President had been an admirer and collector of Hunt’s art for years, and he discussed his and Michelle’s admiration for Mr. Hunt’s life and work. In fact, in a 2021 visit to Hunt’s Chicago studio, Michelle Obama and Richard Hunt discussed how their families’ homes had been just blocks away. Michelle Obama’s great grandfather was a Pullman Porter and her family attended the same A.M.E church in Woodlawn as the Hunt family. President Barack Obama and sculptor Richard Hunt, two of Chicago’s greatest.

With a career spanning seven decades, Richard Hunt became the foremost African American abstract sculptor and artist of public sculpture and received multiple prizes for his work.

Hunt once said: “Sculpture is not a self-declaration but a voice of and for my people. Overall, a rich fabric; under all about the dynamism of the African American people.”

Our thoughts and condolences go out to the Hunt family including his daughter, Cecilia, an artist, and his sister, Marian, a retired librarian.

May his legacy continue to inspire and uplift others.