Beacon-News. December 8, 2016. Gary Gibula


Aurora's Santori Public Library will host a one-man art exhibit this weekend that includes portraits commemorating individuals who have had a significant impact on the Chicago area or are worthy of remembrance.

Peter Hagerty, of Glen Ellyn, is the artist presenting "Chicago: Who Am I?" The exhibit opens at 6 p.m. Friday at 101 S. River St., Aurora.

"What I'm looking to do is reflect the diversity of Chicago's people and ideas through my portraits," Hagerty said. "The dynamic between the viewer and the individual depicted in the portrait is one of introducing Chicagoans to Chicagoans."

Some of Hagerty's portraits include Cardinal Francis George, newspaper columnist Mike Royko, radio personality Wally Phillips and author Studs Terkel.

In addition, a new portrait will be revealed at the art show. The painting depicts Nina Schmale, one of the eight nursing students Richard Speck murdered in 1966.

"I was moved after reading in the Chicago Tribune that Nina's brother recently found some old photos of her and the other girls," Hagerty said. "It's a way of showing respectful remembrance for all eight of the victims."

After discovering a box full of photos in his flooded basement, Dr. John Schmale stepped into the vanished world of his sister, Nina Schmale. The faded color slides belonged to Nina, who, along with seven fellow nurses and nursing students, was murdered in 1966 on Chicago’s South Side.

Hagerty said that the portrait serves as a counterpoint to artists who depict serial killers in their works.

"It fits perfectly with my idea of allegorical symbolism," he said. "There are many families who have had someone killed tragically --it happens every weekend in Chicago-- and the survivors live the rest of their lives wondering if they could have prevented it. The purpose here is to honor the victims and hopefully bring something positive out of this."

Schmale's brother, John, said he will be attending the Friday art opening.

"I haven't yet seen the painting of Nina," Schmale said Tuesday. "I'm not sure what emotions I'll be feeling when I see it."

Hagerty said he was born in Chicago and describes himself as a self-taught artist whose family has lived in Chicago dating back to 1855.

"We're very excited about having Peter here because his work is quite distinct from other portraitures," said Bonnie Sebby, special projects and events manager for the Aurora library. "He is such an interesting individual, and I love his perspective."

Sebby said Hagerty will be making a presentation during the art opening and may also recite some poetry he has written.

Live music will be provided at the event by the Fox Valley Orchestra's Woodwind Quintet, from 6-8:30pm.

The Santori Library is located at 101 South River Street. For more information, go to


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