Susann Craig, outsider art collector, co-founder of the Intuit Museum in Chicago, deceased at 84

When Susann Craig moved, it sounded like wind chimes.

She had rings on each finger and bracelets that went up her arms.

She has covered every surface, shelf and ceiling of her Logan Square loft with paintings, mobiles, statues and geegaws.

At one point, she invited an artist to stay at her mother’s summer cottage and maybe do some decorating. When the artist left, Ms Craig discovered that she had painted a multitude of flowers, dots and stripes on the walls – and on some furniture.

“It was like ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse,’ said daughter Amy Coleman.

It became known as the “Oh, my God” room for how people reacted when they entered.

Mrs. Craig thought it was glorious.

After Susann Craig invited an artist to personalize a summer cottage, her family started calling it the “Oh, my God” bedroom for the reactions it invariably elicited.

While in the hospital for breast cancer treatment, she worried that patients had to stare at empty ceiling tiles. So Coleman arranged for his ceiling to be covered with a rainbow of silk scarves.

“My 84 year old mother wanted to celebrate Pride [Month] in her hospital room, ”she said.

Ms Craig died on June 28 of breast cancer at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., Where she was visiting family.

Susann Craig.

Susann Craig.

Like the beads at the center of the macrame jewelry she created, she was at the heart of many social circles.

“She had business cards made that said ‘Susann Craig, People Connector’,” said her other daughter, Jennifer Knight.

Ms. Craig was an art brut collector and owner of three boutiques in Illinois and northern Michigan. She sold clothes, toys, gifts, accessories and gourmet sweets from all over the world.

And she helped found Intuit, Chicago’s museum of brutal and self-taught art. Ms Craig has organized numerous fundraisers for Intuit with successful clothing sales with items she has collected from friends, designers and her own wardrobe.

In the 1970s, she was director of the Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery on Ontario Street. She also taught courses in ethnic and folk art at Columbia College Chicago, where she compiled a repertoire of Chicago artisans.

In the 1980s, she operated the Susann Craig showroom at the Apparel Center. One of his clothing lines featured vintage sailor tattoos embroidered on t-shirts. She went to Guatemala to have them produced.

Susann Craig - dressed for a walk with her dog Dooley - outside her Logan Square loft.

Susann Craig – dressed for a walk with her dog Dooley – outside her Logan Square loft.
Knight of Alden

Walking her dog Dooley around Logan Square, she wore stylish leggings, flowy scarves, chunky shoes and glasses, hats and funky jewelry. Her neighboring loft was the first project designed solely by the now famous architect Jeanne Gang.

“He was a wonderful person, full of positive energy and intellectual curiosity, especially for art and design,” said Gang, the founder of Studio Gang. “You just wanted to be with her. She was a magnet for people.

Susann Craig (right) with students she invited for lunch and a tour of her art-filled home.

Susann Craig (right) with students she invited for lunch and a tour of her art-filled home.

Coleman worked as a supervising producer for Oprah Winfrey, who used to leave some of her eye-catching clothes on Coleman’s desk with a note saying, “This is for your mother.”

“It looked like this woman can’t be 84 – she’s full of life and enthusiasm and walks faster than most young people,” said Debra Kerr, president of Intuit, which will rename a gallery in her name. honor.

She saw fantasy everywhere. Once, as they were walking on a street in New York City, Kerr said: “Trash bags had opened and she found a discolored photo of two men in swimsuits with their arms one up. around each other, and the frame had pieces of seashells. And she said, “Look at this treasure,” and she brought it home. “

The thrill was in the chase, Ms Craig said in a 2004 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times: One more pile in the basement. I found [folk art] people walking past something on a country road and stopping screaming.

She spent much of her youth in Greenwich, Connecticut, where her father Robert Eickmeyer was director of the YMCA. His mother Viola worked as an executive secretary and in a consignment store run by the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich.

“This kind of bargain hunt, thrift store has probably been planted out there,” Coleman said.

She studied speech therapy at the College of Wooster in Ohio, where she met Scott Craig, who would become her husband and an award-winning producer of documentaries and television shows.

They later divorced, but, as graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Craigs haunted flea markets. Mrs. Craig, who was studying art history, had no room for all the treasures she found. Her husband at the time suggested that she open a store. She called it The Gallery, Ltd.

They later bought a cottage in Leland, Michigan, where Ms. Craig opened her second store, The Limited, LTD., In what has become “a thriving tourist hub,” Coleman said.

She named her third boutique Lima Bean after a friend’s pet turtle. She still operates in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

Actress Jennifer Beals, a friend of Coleman’s, often visited the Craig’s house in Chicago when she was growing up.

“With her huge turquoise and coral rings, each a story, her clothes that seemed to come from far away lands, her rapture, her recognition of all kinds of beauty, her curiosity, her cheerful swagger and her knowledge and celebration of art, she was a gateway to a world I knew I wanted to be a part of, “Beals said.” Just by existing she let me know that not only was it OK not to look and think like everyone else, it was, in fact, a glory to be celebrated. “

When Mrs. Craig’s daughters were young, she took us to leper colonies in Nepal, ”Knight said. “We camped under the Great Pyramid in Egypt in Bedouin tents. She used to say, “Why would we stay in a hotel when we can do that?” “”

Susann Craig with her daughters Jennifer (left) and Amy.

Susann Craig with her daughters Jennifer (left) and Amy.

At times, her unconventional character could be taxing on her growing daughters. Knight remembers the handyman employed by his mother who had a large tattoo of Jesus on his chest. When it was hot, he shaved his chest, except for the hairs on Jesus’ beard and mustache.

There were a lot of times I wanted my mom to be more ‘normal’ like other parents, ”Coleman said. “As I get older I’m happy to recognize how special she was. “

Ms. Craig loved the smell of gardenias and enjoyed spending time with friends who called themselves “the grays” for their natural hair color. Sometimes they wore T-shirts that said “Openly Gray”.

Susann Craig (left) and her friend Jan Petry were part of a group of naturally gray haired friends called

Susann Craig (left) and her friend Jan Petry were part of a group of naturally gray haired friends called “The Grays”.

Ms. Craig is also survived by her sisters Jane Kiernan and Mary Lou Coe and four grandchildren.

A celebration of her life is scheduled for August 9 at the Old Art Building in Leland, Michigan. A memorial is scheduled for Nov. 6 at St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago, followed by a rally at Intuit.

Susann Craig wore rings on every finger all over the world.

Susann Craig wore rings on every finger all over the world.

Norma D. Ross