Art captures spirit of Ravinia Festival

“I really wanted to show how expressive music is as an art form,” says Jawaan Burge, a grad student in fine arts, of his winning design for the Ravinia Festival, which will appear in marketing materials, T-shirts and more. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Jawaan Burge’s inspirations include Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Burge, a master’s student in fine arts, drew upon those influences for his winning entry in this year’s Ravinia Festival poster contest.

The Women’s Board of Ravinia selected his graffiti-styled design from among more than 100 entries from high school and college students across the country.

His winning design, which will appear on festival marketing materials, will be sold in Ravinia’s gift shops and online at on posters, T-shirts and note cards.

Remarkably, three other students in the design class taught by associate professor Matthew Gaynor were also singled out in the 40th annual competition. Muhammad Nafisur Rahman won second place, Anna Keeler won third and honorable mention went to Ching-Mei Ling.

“It was a class project,” Burge said. “We had a great group this year.

“I really enjoy the design faculty and my fellow grad students. It’s awesome to be connected with such a diverse group of talented people — I think it’s a great benefit to my design work and a major reason why I won the Ravinia competition.”

Burge’s winning design centers on an oil-painted red violin beneath a charcoal-lettered “Ravinia.” Just below the instrument is a big “25,” a nod to the festival’s Steans Music Institute, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The poster is splashed with colors.

“I really wanted to show how expressive music is as an art form,” Burge said.

“I accomplished this by taking inspiration from abstract and neo-expressionism, where artists such as Pollock and Basquiat expressed emotion by portraying recognizable objects in a more abstract manner, using vivid colors and rough and raw brush strokes to visually communicate.”

He’d been working along different lines when he tackled the project.

“I had been doing a lot of pixel stroke stuff,” he said. “My instructor, Matthew Gaynor, asked me to break out of that and try something different.

2013 Ravinia Festival Poster

Jawaan Burge’s winning design.

“I used really bold, vibrant colors. I’m really into abstract art and I wanted to bring that into my design.

“And I saw a documentary on Basquiat right before I did the design, and I ran with that — I abstracted a violin and applied the typography around it.”

Creating and executing his composition “opened my mind to the potentials of expanding and exploring different arts and designs,” Burge said.

“I’m honored to be a part of a collection of so many great poster designs over the years.”

Burge grew up in the south suburbs and lives in Country Club Hills with his father and younger sister.

His interest in art and design started in high school.

“It was probably career day,” he recalled. “I think it was the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, and I remember seeing a poster of a student’s work and thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do.’

“I never pursued any other studies than art and design.”

Burge started at UIC as an undergrad after working at his father’s cleaning company “for extra cash,” he said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree he started on his MFA, which he will complete in May.

“After that I want to start working, probably freelancing, doing illustrative and design work,” he said.

When he’s not doing his art, you may find him on the basketball court.

“I love basketball,” said Burge, who is 6 feet tall. “Besides design, it’s really the only thing I can do for countless hours and have pure enjoyment.

“It’s also my stress release when I have a bad design critique or when I’m just stressed out about the challenges of design.”

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