JEAN BERRY (1938- )

PAPERS, 1988-2004

5 linear inches

and audiovisual material

ACQUISITION: The papers (donor no. 407) were donated by Jean Berry in 1997 and 2004.

ACCESS: The papers are open for research.

AUDIOVISUAL: Two videocassettes shelved in videocassette collection (V132 and V408).

COPYRIGHT: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.


PROCESSED BY: James Zachary Henshaw, 1997; Lindsay E. Shannon, 2008.



          Jeanette (Jean) Berry, artist, was born August 22, 1938, in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and was raised in Kansas City, Missouri. She married early in life and had three children.

         Berry began studying art as a teenager and took instruction in art at the Kansas City Art Institute. Berry then moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and received an Associate of Arts degree from Des Moines Area Community College in 1980. She trained with artists Chancey Rosenbaum and Brenda Jones.

         The death of her youngest child, Toni, was a watershed for Berry, after which she “threw [herself] into [her] art to fill the void.” In spring 1987, she enrolled as a student of art at Drake University in Des Moines. There she completed a B.F.A. in May 1989. Berry’s work was exhibited regionally and nationally after she received her degree and was included in a Smithsonian Institution exhibition. In 1989, she won the Fourth Annual King Celebration Art Award.

         Berry works predominantly in charcoal and paper, focusing primarily on depicting African Americans.


Scope and Content Note

          The Jean Berry papers date from 1988 to 2004 and measure 5 linear inches. The papers are divided into 6 series: Biographical Information, Professional Career, Publications, Correspondence, Fine Art Print, and Photographs. These papers document Berry’s life as an artist whose focus is African-American culture in the United States.

         The Biographical Information series (1993-2000 and undated) contains narrative biographies about Jean Berry. Background material and listings of exhibitions, awards, and associations are included, as well as a video containing a segment about Berry from Videoscan’s Show #1: “African American Artists in Iowa,” (1993).

         The Professional Career series (1987-1999) comprises the bulk of the collection. It chronicles the exhibitions of which Berry was a part. Flyers and pamphlets from the exhibitions and newspaper clippings are included as well as a video containing a segment about Berry from Iowa Artists, 1998. Exhibition catalog Iowa Artists, 1998.

         The Publications series (1990-2000) contains publications to which Berry contributed and publications containing articles about her. A book, Mediated Messages and African-American Culture (1996), for which Jean Berry contributed cover art, was co-edited by her daughter, Venise T. Berry, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Iowa, and is shelved in the printed works collection. The book, Lifework: Portraits of Iowa Women Artists (1998) contains an essay and photograph of Berry and is shelved in the printed works collection.

         The Correspondence series (1990-1999) contains professional correspondence concerning exhibitions. Correspondence with patrons is also included.

         The Fine Art Print, “Mary Louise” was created by Berry in honor of Mary Louise Smith, former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, for the 100th anniversary of the YWCA of Greater Des Moines.

         The Photographs series contains photographs of Berry’s exhibits and photographic images of particular artworks by her.

Related Collections

          Venise T. Berry papers. Venise Berry is the daughter of Jean Berry.


Box no. Description

Box 1
                      Biographical Information
                               Videocassette, “African American Artists in Iowa,” Videoscan,
                                   1993 (VHS, 7:30 minutes) [shelved in the videocassette
                                   collection: V132]
                                Artist’s statement and notes, undated
                                Events and memorabilia, 1995-2000

                     Professional Career
                               Iowa Artists, 1998 [shelved in printed works collection]
                               Iowa Artists, 1998 [shelved in videocassette collection: V408]
                               Newspaper clippings, 1991-2004
                               Grants, awards, and letters of recognition, 1987-1999

                               How to Get Your Bearings. How to Get a Job. (1990) [illustrated
                                   by Berry]
                               “Interview: Jean Berry,” Iowa Woman (Spring 1994)
                               “One of Ten ThousandGoddess Lore & Ritual,” [co-illustrated
                                   by Berry], Sage Woman (Summer 1994)
                               “Jean Berry,” Iowa Visions of Color (1995)
                               Mediated Messages and African-American Culture (1996) [cover
                                   illustration by Berry] [shelved in the printed works collection]
                               Lifework: Portraits of Iowa Women Artists (1998)
                               Venise Berry, 2000


                       Fine Art Print
                              Print, “Mary Louise,” 100th Anniversary of the YWCA of Greater
                                   Des Moines[shelved in the map case: drawer 10]

                               First show, October Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
                                   November 4-5, 1989
                               “A Taste of Africa” event, First United Methodist Church,
                                   Des Moines, Iowa, February 27, 1993
                               Various exhibitions