John Neugebauer looms larger than life looking down from the mural at the intersection of Kensington and Frankford Avenues.
He was the model for the Civil War soldier, for artist Cesar Viveros, during the Destination Frankford project. He has been a civil war re-enacter and is an amateur historian of that era.
You are likely to find John in Frankford at Overington Park on one of the monthly events they sponsor. He will be the tall guy with a smile and always something interesting to say. Last year, when I was doing some research on another story, I asked my friend Jack Hohenstein, whose son Frank is a potter, if there were any other artists in Frankford. Jack referred me to Neugebauer and said he was also a potter.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since he is married to Diane Kunze, the founder and leader of the Friends of Overington Park. Those arty people tend to stick together, don’t they?
They live in a nice Victorian twin overlooking the park and it was there that I finally sat down with John, a few days before Christmas, to get some more of his story.
He is a local guy, grew up in the Northeast, went to Father Judge. He grew up in the hardware business since his father owned Loretto Hardware.
His heart was in art but thinking he had to make a living, he went to Temple and graduated with a business degree. He subsequently ended up back in the hardware business.
The hardware business changed quite a lot with the entry of the big box stores and after working in the industry for many years he found a way to capitalize on his sales skills in the education field.
His current job with the Art Institute of Philadelphia in the culinary department is as a recruiter. He talks to students about opportunities for a career in the culinary arts and how the Art Institute can help them achieve those goals. It’s the perfect gig for him.
All those years while making a living, he still found time to pursue his interest in art and took a first pottery class that got him started.
It is an ongoing learning process of working with the clay and glazes.
Making something of beauty and utility seems to have combined the artistic side with the practical hardware guy.
Each artist brings something of himself to the craft. John’s pieces often incorporate forms and patterns from nature. He would rather use an actual leaf than draw an abstract form.
Of late he found a way to combine his interest in the Civil War and pottery by making some unique items commemorating the war.
Below is a picture of a flask that might have been carried by a Union soldier, interpreted in pottery. The artwork is from the 13th New Jersey
Volunteer Infantry Regiment monument at the Gettysburg .