Shelley Howard Chicago legend

Shelley Howard and one of his works.

Shelley Howard and one of his works.

While other cities produce talented artists, Chicago produces legends. What makes a legend? Prodigious talented output. That takes work, hard work. The city of Big Shoulders is the city of hard work. Chicago has never been about who or what you are. It's history is marked by how hard you worked. What you were, where you came from, or who you slept with was your own business. You put out or you were shut out.

Aside from skill, craftsmanship, and talent, Chicago artists are or have been very prolific. They produce vast bodies of quality work. Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Saul Bellow, Victor Skrebneski, Nelson Algren, Tony Fitzpatrick, Roger Ebert, Ben Hecht, Robert Hardy Andrews, Carl Sandburg, Leroy Neiman are just some of the prolific legends Chicago gave to the world. Some left because for some strange reason Chicago does not recognize its artists until they are dead.

There are other Chicago legends who worked hard, created prodigious output, and are relatively unknown, except in their fields of endeavor. These include photographers Linda Matlow and Paul Natkin and graphic designer and artist Shelley Howard.

This month Shelley Howard will be celebrating 40 years as a graphic artist. Shelley Howard is not a household name but he is legendary. If you live anywhere in the Midwest and see or saw an ad or poster for a concert produced by Jam Productions you  viewed Shelley Howard's work.


Like many in the graphic arts field, Shelley Howard started in the fashion industry. He designed ads for cutting edge designers and the many boutiques that graced Chicago in the late 1960s-1970s. After working for a magazine, he helped create JAM Magazine with Arny Granat and Jerry Mickelson, the owners of JAM Productions. Their association has lasted over 30 years. Shelley Howard also designed ads, posters, and flyers for major venues including The World Music Center(Tweeter), Alpine Valley, Rosemont Horizon (Allstate Arena), The Chicago Theater, Aragon Ballroon, Park West, Riviera Theatre, Vic Theatre and Metro.


Shelley Howard created various promotional materials for Prince, Tom Petty, R.E.M. and local bands too numerous to mention. He  produces all the graphics for Outback Concerts in Nashville. His large portfolio appears in over 125 cities across the United States and Canada. Mr. Howard related that he creates over 1000 unique pieces of art per year and has done so for decades.

IMG_5726 In the late 1970s with the rise of dance clubs, Mr. Howard created a concept called Video Dance Stand (VDS). VDS presented music videos for club audiences. The shows appeared at park West, Metro, Great America, to name a few, and were seen by thousands of club goers every weekend. Eventually VDS was nick-named "Shelley Vision".

Raconteur Shelley Howard Oscar Night at Rockit Ranch

Raconteur Shelley Howard Oscar Night at Rockit Ranch


Shelley Howard was, and still is, a major presence and participant in the club, concert, party, and restaurant scenes. He is considered a member of "Rush Street Royalty". If you look up raconteur in the dictionary, Shelley Howard would be the first definition.


Mr. Howard's numerous friends include some of the luminaries in Chicago's fashion, entertainment, and nightlife scene, including ChicagoNow's Candace Jordon (Candid Candace).


Celebrating 40 years in the business, Shelley Howard has been releasing one or two images of his art work daily on his Facebook page. This will continue until the end of the month.

Mr Howard is currently archiving his vast body of work for a show at his 40th anniversary party being held at the end of this month.


Shelly Howard, right, with the author at Gibsons. Copyright Shelley Howard.

To view Mr. Howard's body of work visit his website and click Portfolio.




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