For 22 years, Turtel Onli, a working artist, taught art and coached sports in eight different Chicago Public Schools (CPS). He fully appreciated and seized the opportunity to teach, took great pride in the relationships he built with his colleagues and students, and pushed to raise awareness of the visual arts in CPS throughout the City of Chicago. His students often described him as “more of a mentor than a teacher.”
Onli retired from CPS in 2013. He initially felt a bit of a void as he was fully invested in teaching. He missed the ‘daily rhythm’ of going to a school each day. Since he always thought of himself as an artist, he ‘had to go to it.’ Onli filled his days pursuing his passions of creating art, graphic novels, comic books, and the celebration of characters and concepts derived from the indie Black, African, and urban experience. As he was no longer constrained by the day-to-day work schedule and school calendar, he found himself making more artwork with his hands and spending even more time at Onli Studios, which he started in 1981 and opened at the Bridgeport Art Center in 2009. Onli Studios produces Rhythmistic fine art and indie graphic novels for collectors and art lovers who want different, sincere yet creative quality. In addition, it is now a small functioning publisher selling books at the DuSable Museum of African American History and online.
When Onli isn’t at a table drawing, researching art or mentoring the next budding artist, he enjoys regular workouts and taking advantage of all the City of Chicago has to offer. He suggests biking on the lakefront when the weather allows. He stated, “whatever you have to do and can do to make your retirement better is worth doing it.” Want to learn more about his work? Visit his website. And if you know how to do old style animation, he would love to recruit retirees to join him to work on an indie animation project!
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