McCrabb: Legendary Middletown artist went from winning ‘little prize’ to a beautiful career

Jack Howard loves being an artist and he anticipates the response a finished project will draw.

It’s called the best of both worlds: Having a job and never working.

“I enjoy doing it and if somebody else likes it, then it’s a gift to give them,” Howard said. “It’s a win/win thing for crying out loud.”

Howard has been creating wins through his artwork for decades, and on June 1, he will serve as honorary chair of the Art from the Heart Auction benefiting the Middletown Arts Center at Miami Valley Gaming. This recognition is long overdue. In Middletown, Howard is to a canvas what Jerry Lucas is to a court.

“An honor, believe me,” Howard said about being honorary chair.

Kim Minor, assistant director at MAC, said when the art auction committee gathered to select this year’s honorary chair, Howard was “first” on her short list. When potential candidates were discussed, Minor said, “It has to be Jack.”

MORE McCRABB: McCrabb: What 5 living generations have taught this Butler County family about motherhood

Now 86, Howard remains active in the art community. He recently completed a full color ink rendition of the Notre Dame Cathedral that will be auctioned at the MAC fundraiser, and he’s working on a drawing of the Miami Marcum Center on the Oxford campus, a present from a father to his graduating daughter.

The Notre Dame drawing is “one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Howard said.

That’s quite a statement considering the volume of drawings he has produced. Over the years, in his distinct style, he has drawn hundreds of Middletown landmarks, residences and Miami University buildings. One of his art exhibits featured the Marcum Conference Center Art Collection from Miami University that was part of the Miami Album, several pieces from the Mary Jane Palmer Art Collection, drawings of Middletown homes and historical landmarks and watercolors conceived during Howard’s extensive travels.

Your art collection isn’t complete unless there’s a Howard drawing on your wall.

And to think if Howard had listened to his father, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, we may never have been introduced to his artwork. He steered Howard to architecture because being an artist was no way for a man to make a living, his father told him.

When the war ended, the Howards returned to Middletown. Howard graduated from Middletown High School in 1951 and Miami University in 1963 with a degree in architecture.

While working in the City of Middletown’s Planning Department during the 1980s and 1990s as the city’s architect, he served as the executive director for the city’s Bicentennial Project, creating the vision for the celebration and coordinating the various volunteer, nonprofit, corporate and city groups involved.

MORE McCRABB: Battling cancer and running businesses, his message is ‘have fun’

He also was a driving force behind bringing the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Nationals to Middletown in the early 1990s.

Over the last four decades, Howard has served the Middletown Arts Center as patron and benefactor and continues to support the art programming produced there.

Through all these projects, Howard has always been drawn back to his first love. Howard remembers the first time his pencil touched paper when he was in the sixth grade. It was a sketch of an overweight man sitting on a diving board and it was entitled “Fat or thin learn to swim.”

The drawing won Howard “a little prize,” he said.

Howard is best known for his residential drawings. More than once, he said, Middletown police have questioned why he was sitting in his car taking pictures of a home. Another time, he said, when he didn’t like the look of the front of a home, he drew an imaginary tree to block out part of the residence. Then, after he gave the family the picture, they liked it so much, they planted a tree.

He never draws leaves on any of his trees, his “signature,” he said.

“If I’m happy, then I put my name on it,” he said. “If they don’t like it, they will get over it.”

When he completes a drawing, he’s always asked how long it took.

“Forty years,” he says. “That’s always my answer. But, really, this has been a great way to make a living.”

So Howard made his father proud and proved him wrong at the same time.


WHAT: Art from the Heart Auction benefiting Middletown Arts Center and sponsored by Atrium Medical Center

WHEN: Cash bar 5 p.m., dinner 6:30 p.m., June 1

WHERE: Miami Valley Gaming, Monroe


MORE INFORMATION: 513-424-2417 or

About the Author