Naperville protester's collage depicts tent fire
The artist appears in a black T-shirt, dark wash blue jeans and black tennis shoes with a long gray beard and straight gray hair clipped behind his head.
He is none other than Scott M. Huber, a squatter whose "Protest HQ" has been an unusual fixture on Naperville streets for 15 years, interrupted only by a few moves to different locations and an arson fire that burned down his tents last month.
It's the fire that turned Huber into an artist.
For the second time in four years, he's teamed with Naperville Art League member and former art teacher Madeline Rowe to create a piece inspired by his protests and his Christian outreach ministry.
This time, the collage tells the story of the fire, which began about 2 p.m. July 18 when Huber wasn't inside his tent near the Mobil station on Ogden Avenue at Naper Boulevard but across the street using the internet.
The fire, which Huber says "burned everything to a crisp" and "cremated" his belongings, is depicted in abstract form by yellow, orange and gray graphite lines Rowe drew to form the background. It's shown in more concrete fashion by pieces of cardboard painted to look like flames and four newspaper articles about the fire that Rowe burned around the edges.
The piece is on display as part of the Naperville Art League's exhibit "Selfie," which runs noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday until Sept. 22 at 508 N. Center St.
Rowe, 72, said she reached out to Huber as one of many people who offered to help the protester and community fixture in some way after the fire. While others provided him with new tents, clothing, food and gear, she wanted to help with his messaging.
"Through the art league and through his art hanging here," Rowe said Friday, "he can broaden his reach."
Huber says he's trying to reach people to protest what he says are unfair government systems.
"I'm protesting for equal rights, equal protection of the law, equal enforcement of the law and equal prosecution of the law, and I haven't been experiencing that," said Huber, 65. "Where it works for everyone else, it doesn't work for me."
He's been protesting since 1999 after he lost his electronics and TV business and his home in what he says was an unfair liquidation proceeding.
For several years in the early 2000s, Huber set up camp around downtown Naperville streets until the city in 2009 outlawed sleeping, camping and storing property there. Huber then moved his "Protest HQ" to 4 N. Washington St., outside a psychologist's office. He moved from that area to several sites on Ogden Avenue after he was found guilty of misdemeanor charges in 2011 for chasing and taunting the psychologist when she asked him to leave.
The fire at his current home at 1420 E. Ogden, if anything, has extended Huber's reach. He said on his Facebook page he's received almost 300 new friends since the blaze and he now has about 600 followers -- not only Naperville natives intrigued by his presence but people from across the world.
On social media, he often quotes scripture. He does the same in the collage hanging on the east wall of the art league's gallery. It's near a painting of a dog's face with a yellow tennis ball, silhouettes of travelers on train station stairs, a sun-soaked photo of three generations smiling, a painting of a woman in a big red hat.
"If anyone hurts my believers, they put worse than a millstone about their neck thrown into the sea," Huber writes on the collage, quoting from a verse in the biblical book of Matthew. "Follow Christ as St. Paul followed Christ," he continues, quoting from a passage in First Corinthians and Philippians.
"Peace," he writes below the quotes.
"It's part of my Christian outreach ministry, even from my tent," Huber said.
The art and scripture quotes also explain his views on the fire. Naperville police said the fire was set intentionally, and James Povolo, 71, of Naperville has been charged with one count of felony arson and one felony count of criminal damage to property in the case. Povolo's next court date is Oct. 5.
"People who do things like this," Huber said, "are in big trouble with God and he makes the final call, not I."