At Each Branch, an Art Gallery

by Rasheite Radcliff

What started as simple snapshots of newborns and family vacations has grown into much more than just a simple pastime. Jean Ann Honegger, a former high school English teacher and now CEO and co-chairman of Morton Community Bank, is becoming well known for her astonishing photography. And just where are those galleries in which she showcases her artwork? Inside every single branch of Morton Community Bank.

Our story begins in 1968, when Jean Ann and her husband Gordon brought home their newborn son, Andy, from the hospital. Like many new parents, she took a keen interest in capturing those special moments of her son and family, investing in the best equipment available because “throw-away cameras” would just not do the job. As she says, “If I cannot see somebody’s eyelash, then it’s not a good picture.”

This love for photography began to extend beyond the desire for family memories, growing into a hobby for Honegger. Family vacations provided dozens of opportunities to explore her craft, as she snapped away at flowers, lizards and buildings like the Taj Mahal (one of her favorite sites). She and her husband have traveled to many locations all over the world, and each destination has become her own personal photography studio.

In the beginning, she did not see her photos as artwork—they were simply the product of a beloved hobby. But as she enlarged and hung them in her home, she started to run out of room. The walls of the Honegger home, flooded with the sights of China and the scenes of Hawaii, became so full that she began to hang photos in her office at the bank.

When bank employees stopped by her office, they would rave about her photography, and soon began asking for photographs to decorate their own offices. Feeling honored by their appreciation of her work, Honegger would grant their requests, which freed up more space for her expansive repertoire. “I’d take that one out and bring another one from home,” she reminisces.

If her photos were to become a part of the banks’ décor, they had to take on the look of the banks themselves, designed with the look and feel of the “Old World.” She partnered with Steve Stribley, who matted and framed each picture in identical Old World-style wooden frames of all shapes and sizes—a classy look that perfectly matched the banks’ distinctive style. Soon, the Morton Community Bank branch on South Main was full of Honegger’s photography as well.

In 1999, Morton Community Bank expanded, opening more doors for Honegger’s artwork. The old location of Martin Foods, a hometown grocery store, was transformed into what is now the bank’s home branch on West Jackson Street, complete with that Old World look. When it came time to decorate, Gordon Honegger suggested the obvious—using his wife’s photographs, a proposal with which she was delighted.

Jean Ann brought in an array of photographs from which all employees could select their favorites. She wanted to ensure that her employees had the photographs that tickled their interest, whether penguins, flowers or sunsets. “Everyone has a love,” she explained. “They just put stickies on what pictures they wanted for their office.”

Fast-forward to 2008, and Jean Ann Honegger’s artwork has flourished more than she ever expected. You won’t find her work in museums, and she doesn’t exhibit at art shows. It’s not for lack of talent, as any observer will immediately realize how remarkable her photographs are. Bank customers frequently offer to purchase her photos. “I had four buyers yesterday,” she shrugs, “but I won’t sell.”

Frankly, there is really no need for her to sell. The bank’s 24 branches serve as much more than just money markets. Each branch is a museum of sorts, a photographic extravaganza showcasing a life in pictures and the pride of its owners. For those who wish to enjoy her exhibits, she is more than willing to give tours of the art galleries at Morton Community Bank. iBi


Source URL: https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2008/dec/at-each-branch-art-gallery