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Special Projects Intern Amanda Donaldson, left, assists Exhibit and Program Specialist Carol Anne Gayle with hanging “American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times” Wednesday, January 9, 2020 at Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center.

Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center will open "American Visionary: JFK's Life and Times" with a reception, free and open to the public, Friday, Jan. 10, 5:30-8 p.m. On display until March 28, the exhibition is a collection of 77 photos from the collections of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Getty Images, private collections and the Kennedy family archives.

"American Visionary" was the first exhibit selected by Matt Young, center director, when he entered the position in November 2018. "I think that the Kennedys are largely still an obsession by American people. It's as close to royalty as we have," he said. "Not only that, he was one of the first presidents to be photographed to the degree that he was because of the invention of the modern day modern camera."

History buffs and Kennedy fans are sure to enjoy this exhibit as it features many photos from private collections not previously released to the masses. Pointing to an image taken of John and Jackie in an automated photo booth, Young said, "The whole exhibit really reveals a more personal side to JFK and Jackie."

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Guests will enter the third floor gallery at Historic City Hall greeted by a large image of Kennedy and an artistic transcript of his famed inaugural speech.

Guests will enter the third floor gallery greeted by a large image of Kennedy and an artistic transcript of his famed inaugural speech. Walking throughout the exhibit guests will catch glimpses of the early life of Kennedy, "The Making of JFK," marriage and campaigning photos, "Road to the White House" and his time in office and eventual burial, "The New Frontier."

"Though he was assassinated in Dallas before finishing his first term, he remains as a global leader and one of the most studied American presidents. Both the young and old will enjoy this photographic exhibit," Nic Hunter, mayor of Lake Charles, said.

Highlights of "American Visionary" include a 1953 photo booth snapshot of the Kennedy newlyweds, a candid 1958 photograph of Kennedy playing with his daughter in her bassinet, a 1960 photograph of people peering at Kennedy through the window as he prepares for a campaign speech, a 1961 photograph of the first couple and others heading to Kennedy's inauguration ceremony and more.

One photo shows Kennedy at an informal, unannounced campaign stop in Oregon before he announced his election. Kennedy made two similar stops in Lake Charles and Crowley in 1959, visits that surely sealed his presidential bid, Young said.

"He realized he was electable with Southern Democrats...The fact that he was Catholic was a big plus for Louisiana and the fact that his wife spoke French so fluently. They say that when she started speaking French at the Crowley rice festival the crown just went nuts."

In addition to the three month exhibit, Historic City Hall will also host a special speaker's panel to recall the events surrounding Kennedy's local visit in 1959 on February 17 at 6 p.m.

Historic City Hall is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 491-9147 or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.

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