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LUMA EXhibition
“Art & the Crèche: The Collection of James and Emilia Govan” exhibition, Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago.
Just past Chicago's historic Water Tower, colorful banners announce the "Art & Faith of the Crèche: The Collection of Jim and Emilia Govan" exhibit at Loyola University Museum of Art…
Art of the Crèche: Nativities from Around the World

Art of the Crèche: Nativities from Around the World by James L. Govan celebrates the devotional tableau inspired by the gentlest of the great Medieval saints, St. Francis of Assissi. The practice of constructing crèches spread throughout Europe from the 13th century on, and somewhat later, to North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Craftsmen of each country create their nativities in exuberant local styles that we would now define as indigenous…
Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago
LUMA Exhibition Video
Watch a video tour of Art of the Crèche: The Collection of James and Emilia Govan exhibition, Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago. James Govan is shown with a Peruvian nativity and Museum Director Pamela Ambrose.
James L. Govan
Author, Collector, Crèche Missionary, Past President of Friends Of The Crèche

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Collector/Author/Crèche Missionary James Govan holds his just-published Art &Faith of the Crèche: Nativities from Around the World, accompanied by the work of Adam Widra (Poland, Left, Folks Arts of Poland, Santa Fe, New Mexico), and a Guatemalan triptych paper crèche enthusiasts would especially love. (The Collection of James & Emilia Govan; courtesy LUMA; photo © Crè

A collection created by love, a shared faith, and a shared love of art…

Sharing a life, a faith, and a love for art and the crèche — Emilia Govan.
You've just stepped off a plane from a trip to New York City (Broadway—one night before the strike—City Opera, New York Philharmonic Children's Concert with a good friend conducting, a nightclub performance with Chita Rivera, fine dining with friends) and find your inbox full. One message, from well-known crèche collector James Govan, past president of Friends Of The Crèche, stands out:

Dear Alexis,

I don't know if this is still a current address for you or not...If so, I hope my message finds you well... Your Crechemania web site continues to be a wonderful site...

Poor crechemania! It's been an orphan for almost a year during my many location travels outside the country.

I also wanted to inform you that, at last, my book, based on our family collection of creches, has finally been published. The book is Art of the Creche: Nativities from Around the World. It's been a labor of love, and dedicated to my beloved late wife, Emilia. It's published by Merrell Publishers of London-New York and has just been released.

Jim's book, here? You don't remember seeing it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop. But then, you only had eyes for the renovated, recently opened, splendid Greek and Roman Galleries.

Your thoughts of the Govan Collection between the covers are interrupted by another, even more intriguing, message from Jim:

Hi Alexis, I'm off this weekend to Chicago...where I'll be exhibiting about 100 of my creches at the Loyola University Museum of Art. There's an opening reception Sat, Nov. 17... and the exhibit will be up until Jan. 23, I think it is... so if you're ever in Chicago in that period... the Museum is on Michigan Ave. near the John Hancock Bldg.Take care of yourself, Jim.

Chicago? You were just there, hours ago. At O'Hare, anyway. Jim Govan, his collection, and his book in the Midwest?

You might have just returned from a long trip (almost two weeks in Peru, a few days with a five-day stop-over in New York City), but you know you can't pass up the chance to meet Jim, see his collection, not talk about his book.

You call The Loyola Museum of Art (LUMA) and find out that there will be an Opening Reception of Art & Faith: The Collection of Jim and Emilia Govan at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday the 17th. You call the airlines, and are told they can get you there in two days, alright, on the 17th, at 3:30 p.m., but for $1,500.

Let's see: O'Hare at 3:30 p.m., Jim's Opening Downtown at 5:00 p.m.? You realize you're never going to make it from the airport to the loop by five o'clock—by helicopter, maybe, but not on the tangle that is Interstate 90 any time of the day or night. So there's only one thing to do: drive.
"Going to Chicago?" asks a friend at work who accompanied you on the New York Trip. "You were just there…"

This delightful book explores the worldwide tradition of the nativity scene… and its enduring appeal as an expression of faith and universal humanity, and as a richly diverse art form. (Merrell.)
When you explain all of the above, she walks to her desk and brings out Jim's book!

She had spotted it at the Metropolitan, and, knowing of my love of nativities, had bought it for me as a Christmas present, not saying a word. Was this a sign?
Did you need more of a reason to head to Chicago?

"It's a beautiful book," handing it to me. She should know: we're in thepublishing business ourselves, and she's the editor.
Jim had mentioned that he was staying at the Seneca, just across the street from LUMA and Water Tower Place. You call the hotel and get the last room, a suite—another sign? You didn't realize then that it was the Festival of Lights weekend that always attracts even more visitors to Chicago.

Before getting in your van for your 1,200 mile round trip to the Windy City you email Jim:
"Hello Jim, Congratulations on a beautiful book (more on that, tomorrow). I'm coming to Chicago, and am very much looking forward to making youracquaintance, albeit a few years late... I'll be staying at the Seneca myself, and will callyour room at seven. Should you be free earlier, pleasecall my room or my cell. See you tomorrow, Alexis."

Then you're on Interstate 90, a small carry-on bag in the back, Jim's book on the passenger seat, an audible book in the audio, and the wide, Midwest horizon all around you. Are you crossing the Mississippi already?

It's a nine-hour-trip to Chicago, and it takes almost two hours to drive the O'Hare-Chicago Loop stretch. You pick Jim up at the hotel and drive to nearby Greek Town for dinner at your favorite restaurant, the Greek Islands. Over tzatziki and melitzanosalata (eggplant) dip, declicious mousaka, and glasses of wine you try to the best of your ability not to talk about crèches, Jim's collection, or his book. Because you want to get it all into your tape recorder tomorrow morning.
Next morning morning, shortly after ten, Jim knocks on your door. As he walks in he faces not just your tape recorder, but your video camera which you've set up on a tripod facing one of the sofas and the sunlit windows.

"It's a pleasure meeting you, at last, Jim," you say, "and seeing your book." The Art of the Crèche: Nativities from Around the World takes pride of place on the coffee table next to your tape recorder.

"It's a mutual pleasure, Alexis. I've looked forward to this for sometime."

You've been wanting to do this for a few years now. Jim had issued a kind invitation to visit him and his collection in the past, but busy schedules intervened. But here he is, smiling across from you, in striped blue shirt, glasses, and snow-white hair, Author, Collector, Crèche Missionary.

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More about James L. Govan:


The Virgin Mary, part of Santos by Alfredo Rodriguez; The Collection of James and Emilia Govan.

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