Every Friday, Campus Pastor Pete Drake and a small group of Langton Place residents enjoy coffee and conversation together. During one of these “Chaplain’s Chats,” as they discussed matters of faith and shared in fellowship, resident Jerry Evenrud spoke up about his passion for the arts, specifically, artistic depictions of the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Jerry, a retired University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of music, has lived at Langton Place for several years. His love of art and profound faith is an inspiration to many at Langton Place. Over his lifetime, Jerry has collected art encompassing works from 1540 to 2005. His Prodigal Son collection includes over 350 unique works, each illustrating different facets of the parable. The rich and timeless message recorded in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke drew him to this parable. His collection, the largest of its kind, contains everything from sculptures to paintings and even an etching by the famous Dutch artist, Rembrandt van Rijn!
Jerry is passionate about sharing the Gospel through what he calls visual evangelization. Wanting others to be as inspired as he is by art, Jerry donated 250 pieces from his collection about a decade ago to Luther Seminary located in St. Paul, Minnesota. His collection adorns the halls of the seminary where students and visitors can see it on a daily basis.
When Pastor Pete learned about this curated collection at Luther Seminary, he was inspired to organize an outing. With the help of Life Enrichment Director Sara Wilharm, the “Chaplain’s Chats” group recently traveled to the seminary library for a private exhibition of Jerry’s collection. “It was touching to see the joy in Jerry’s eyes as he once again looked at the pieces that he spent decades collecting. It was clear that the most important thing to him was the opportunity to let us be a part of it with him,” said Sara. When asked which piece is his favorite, Jerry responded, “Whatever I feel in my heart at the time.”
Jerry’s life work inspired author Robert Brusic to photograph and publish the Prodigal Son collection in a book entitled “And Grace Will Lead Me Home.”
Moved by Jerry’s passion to share the gospel in artistic form, Pastor Pete and Sara purchased copies of his book and had them signed by Jerry himself. Pete spoke about the unique experience, “It was so special to see him holding the works of fine art that he spent a lifetime collecting. With each piece his eyes would light up and his face shone with wonder. It felt for me as if Jerry was back in his age-old dwelling place; that he had returned ‘home’.”