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Merrillville art gallery exhibiting work of Illinois painter

Jesse Johnson and Juanina Johnson opened BESS Art Exposure in Merrillville.

A longtime painter and artist from Matteson, Illinois who did street portraiture in one of New Orleans' busiest tourist districts is exhibiting his work at BESS Art Exposure gallery in Merrillville.

The gallery in a former Boost Mobile store at 5386 Broadway, near the Gary border, is showing the work of Maurice Hodo, who has been creating art since 1950. He previously owned the Hodo's Art Gallery on 75th Street on the South Side of Chicago, prompting many neighboring galleries to open nearby, before moving to New Orleans.

"Hodo realized that the black community had to see black art," BESS Art Exposure owner Jesse Johnson said. "He decided to do drawings and have them reproduced as prints and matted them with a cardboard backing because so many people wanted his drawings."

He went on to peddle his art in Jackson Square of the French Quarter of New Orleans, where he faced harassment from police but people ultimately lined up to have him draw their portraits.

The exhibit runs through Nov. 16. It will be followed by an exhibit of artist Mark McPhail's work, which will run through the end of the month.

For more information, call 219-318-3816 or visit bessartexposure.com.

To support the gallery and its mission to bring culture to North Lake County, go to gofundme.com/keeping-the-art-alive.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.