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Meadowbrook Park to gain two new statues on Tuesday

This coming Tuesday, two new statues will make their way to Urbana's Meadowbrook Park, one of the best places for statuary in Champaign-Urbana.

For the full scoop, check out this press release from the Urbana Park District:

“Surge” and “Transformation” on their way to Urbana

Two new sculptures will arrive at the Wandell Sculpture Garden in Urbana’s Meadowbrook Park on Tuesday, August 22. While each Peoria-based artist is bringing their own individual works to Urbana, the two have collaborated on sculpture before, including a bronze figure displayed at Bradley University and statues for the VFW memorial in Chillicothe, Illinois.

“Transformation” by artist Fisher Stolz is made of bronze and stainless steel.

“The sculpture invites you to experience both the exterior and the interior of the sculpture. A passageway invites the viewer inside. The work was originally created for a yearlong exhibition of sculpture in Chicago parks,” Stolz said.

“Surge” by artist Jaci Willis is constructed of stainless steel and glass.

Willis explained, “Surge was conceived thinking about Lake Michigan and its waves. This, in turn, developed the idealism of a relationship and how the closeness ebbs and flows with the environment around it.”

Both artists will join Urbana Park District staff members to install the pieces beginning at 10:00 a.m.

The Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park was dedicated in June 1999. The garden was named in honor of Celia and Willet Wandell, who owned a local plant nursery and established a trust to give trees to neighboring communities. Celia and Willet’s family saw the Urbana Park District’s plans for a sculpture garden in Urbana as a way to both honor their parents and support art in a natural setting.

A number of the garden’s sculptures are owned by the Urbana Park District as part of the permanent collection. Most of the exhibits are on a two-year loan from the artist and are available for purchase.


Dancing Dog is about to be a certified kosher restaurant

Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery is about to become a certified kosher restaurant, thanks to help from Hillel House. In order to complete the process, the restaurant will be closed Sunday through Tuesday, August 20th through 22nd, and will reopen on Wednesday, August 23rd.

In the meantime, you can get some vegan deep dish pizza this Saturday, August 19th, or find Dancing Dog at Taste of C-U. 
Photos from Facebook. 

No charges filed against Champaign Police Officer who shot unarmed suspect

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a particularly-questionable officer-involved shooting in Champaign-Urbana.

Though there was no body camera footage, the Champaign Police Department did release the dash camera footage from Officer James Hobson, who shot unarmed suspect Dehari Banks after his foot slipped following a car chase in Champaign.

According to State's Attorney Julia Reitz, there is no evidence that Officer Hobson committed a crime, and all discipline handed down must be internal, through the Police Department.

The dash cam footage and audio is terrifying, and without any public mention of entrance and exit wounds, it still seems as though Officer Hobson acted negligently at best, and over-aggressively at worst.

Watch the dash cam video here, via The News-Gazette.

Read State's Attorney Reitz's statement to the Champaign Police Department, and CPD's press release below:

Champaign Police Provide Update into Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation

This news release comes as an update to the community regarding the June 11, 2017 shooting incident in which Champaign Police Officer James Hobson reported an accidental discharge of his duty weapon during apprehension of a fleeing subject. The single bullet discharge resulted in the subject, 22-year-old Dehari Banks, being struck in the shoulder and sustaining a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

The Champaign County Multi-Jurisdictional Investigative Team, led by the Illinois State Police, conducted the investigation into this incident and submitted those findings to the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office. Per written notification from State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, criminal charges will not be filed in regards to Officer Hobson’s actions.

According to reports, Officer Hobson initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle that Dehari Banks was driving. Banks eluded the officer for several blocks before ultimately crashing into a residential garage and fleeing on foot. The foot chase ended when Banks reached a fenced-in area in the 300 Block of N. Fourth St.; at which time Banks turned towards Officer Hobson, who drew his duty weapon as he was coming to a running stop. Officer Hobson reports that as he stopped, his foot slipped on the ground, causing an accidental discharge of his weapon.

Following the shooting incident and per Department policy, Officer Hobson was placed on paid investigative leave. He returned to the Department on June 22, 2017 and was assigned to desk duty and firearms training, pending the completion of the Multi-Jurisdictional Team’s investigation and the State’s Attorney’s ruling. The SA’s decision and review of Officer Hobson’s firearms training will determine his return to patrol duties.

Included in next steps, the Champaign Police Department will conduct its own internal investigation into the incident. At the conclusion of the internal investigation, the Department’s Firearms Discharge Review Board will convene to address the factors of the incident, as outlined within Department Policy 1.5: Firearms Discharge Investigation and Review. Chief Anthony Cobb will then complete a final review to implement his findings and recommendations, including any potential discipline.

“Our Department takes use of force incidents very seriously, especially when someone has been injured by gunfire,” shared Chief Cobb. “We’ve already taken some proactive measures to review and implement individual training needs, as well as taken review of Department-wide firearms training. I’m confident that the Firearms Discharge Review Board will thoroughly examine the issues surrounding this incident and make further recommendation on employee performance.”

With the conclusion of Illinois State Police’s investigation review and the State’s Attorney’s ruling, Champaign Police is releasing the squad car video with audio recording, associated with the June 11 shooting.


Illini Union hosting free eclipse viewing party (with provided glasses)

In what is easily one of the most hilarious news stories of the Summer, eclipse glasses are in high demand. The News-Gazette even wrote a whole article on it.

Did you miss your chance? You're in luck - the Illini Union on Campus will be hosting a free eclipse viewing party on Monday, and they'll be handing out glasses. The event will run from 11 - 3 pm, and will take place at the Union's Anniversary Plaza.

Check out the sweet poster below:


Common Ground Food Co-op announces new Interim General Manager

Tim Sullivan has been announced as Common-Ground Food Co-op's Interim General Manager, and as such, has released a statement to owners and the community.

Find the statement below:

Dear Common Ground Food Co-op Owners and Supporters,

Hello, from your new Interim General Manager. I am very happy and excited to be a part of Common Ground and the greater communities of Urbana and Champaign. I am enjoying getting to know both the Co-op and our community. I am amazed by the local food movement we have here and cannot wait to get out and visit some of the many farms we sell product for at Common Ground.

My mission for the next few months here is not just to hold down the fort while the board works to find and hire a great GM, but to use every bit of my energy, knowledge, and resources to ensure the Co-op is in the best possible place for the new GM. You can help! Please ask for me when you are in the store and let me know how you think we are doing.  We want to create an amazing food shopping experience for you every time you are in the store. Nothing less will do in today's competitive environment. Do not hesitate to call or email me with your thoughts.

Here is a little information about me. I grew up working in my dad's small town grocery store, also worked for an independent supermarket in Fort Collins, Colorado during college, and spent many years as a store director for an employee owned grocery chain. Farmers have always been some of my best friends and when I owned a restaurant operation for 5 years after my retirement, I did everything I coul
d to use local food. One of the more interesting things we did was buy whole hogs from a local organic farmer. Our primary business was wood fired pizzas, and we used the whole hog to make our in-house pepperoni, Canadian bacon, regular bacon, and sausage. It was a great adventure.

The last 3 years I have been volunteering. For example, I have lived in a shelter for refugees in El Paso Texas, did development work in Nicaragua, and this summer spent a couple of months in Montana volunteering for a Red Rocks Lakes Wildlife Refuge. I only do volunteer work that I strongly believe in, and the same is true for my work at Common Ground Food Co-op. I think Common Ground is an important part of The Urban Champaign community.

The staff at Common Ground are working hard to improve our Co-op each day, and we are committed to creating a fun and exciting shopping experience. We hope working with our local farmers can be a big part of that experience.

I look forward to visiting with you.

Here are a couple important dates to remember:
August 18: Tomorrow night, Morgan and I will be sampling some amazing beer and wine in the Co-op from 5:30-7:30pm. I hope to meet lots of owners.

Sept 1-13: Owner will be able to nominate up to 3 local organizations for Round Up For Good and see the current candidates running for the four open seats in our Board of Directors.

September 14-17: Our Owner Appreciation Days

September 14-21: Owner Elections for Round Up For Good and our Board of Directors

September 21: 7-9pm at the Urbana Civic Center: Our Annual Meeting of Owners Gathering!

It's great to be here.

Tim Sullivan


Annual Wellness & Brain Fitness Fair coming October 7th

The Annual Wellness & Brain Fitness fair will be held at Marketplace Mall on Saturday, October 7th. The fair is an educational and social event that features experts and resources from all areas of wellness, including physical, mental, environmental, social, and more. 

The fair will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and this year's event will feature "Wellness Hubs" and free entertainment. 

For more information on the fair and updates on this year's fair, check out the Facebook page.


2017 Heartland Maker Fest calling for makers

Makerspace Urbana is happy to announce that this year we will be hosting our annual celebration of local makers on Saturday, October 14 at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana. We invite you to apply for the 2017 Heartland Maker Fest! Last year was a grand success with over 1500 attendees! We look forward to continuing to grow in 2017.

Our Call For Makers is officially open and ready for you to apply! Our application will close on Friday, September 29.

Heartland Maker Fest has three guiding principles: “Inspire”, “Empower”, and “Connect”. These principles help us support our community and local makers in the spirit of DIY and craft. Find out more about our goals at our website.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask!


Emergency tree removal, lane closures happening tonight on 4th street

Traffic will be a little different at the corner of Kirby and 4th Street in Champaign, tonight, including lane closures. For the full details, check out the press release below:


(Intersection of Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue)

Champaign – Public Works staff will stabilize a large, potentially dangerous tree near the intersection of Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue. The work has begun and is expected to last into the night, partial lane closures will be required in order to facilitate access to the tree by the crews.

The City appreciates the cooperation of travelers in the area and encourages caution when travelling through this work zone.


Deadspin blasts Illinois Football - again

In what is certainly a stale and overdone trope, Deadspin took to the internet today to publish a piece entitled "Illinois Is Paying Lovie Smith A Lot Of Money For This Shit", and featuring another picture of a half-empty fan section.

I get it - Illinois Football is bad. It's more fun to think of funny things to tweet during the game than watch the actual game. Perhaps we've just gotten used to being bad by now, but honestly, why are people still so infatuated with the fact that a bad team doens't inspire their fans?

That's not a remarkable phenomenon at all. The first time, it was funny, the second time, it was bordering on annoying, but this latest piece is the definiton of beating a dead horse. It's the equivalent of someone saying "Ha ha, look at the bad team. Their fans don't even want to come to the games (imagine that?) because they're bad."

No shit, Deadspin. We know we're bad. We're working on it. Pick on a team who pays athletes or has fake classes instead. Let us lose in peace.


Local films sought for 8th annual New Art Film Festival

From the press release


Brevity is key as New Art Film Festival launches 2017 Call for Entries period

(Champaign, Illinois) August 15, 2017: For one month, the New Art Film Festival (NAFF) will accept submissions to consider for its eighth annual program at the Art Theater in downtown Champaign, Illinois, scheduled for Sunday, October 29, 2017. The Call for Entries begins today, Tuesday, August 15, and ends after Friday, September 15. Creative media makers in the greater downstate Illinois region and central Midwest are welcome to participate.

“After a deliberation about taking 2017 off and returning in 2018, we’ve decided that ‘the show must go on’,” says NAFF director and co-founder Jason Pankoke. “Our community event is still the only true showcase for our friends and neighbors to experience a wide range of locally-made films produced by their fellow residents. As well, we want to use the occasion this year to mark previous Champaign-Urbana movie milestones that pointed to the NAFF we enjoy today.”

For submitting films, entrants should write the NAFF at and include functional link(s) to on-line screener(s), password(s) to access the same, and the following: Year of Production, Running Time, Name of Director(s)/Producer(s)/Writer(s), Names of Primary Cast Members, Name of Production Company(ies), Plot Synopsis, Filmmaker Biography(ies), and Print Source (i.e., Contact Information we can share with the public).

Entries on non-returnable DVD or flash drive (not Blu-ray) may be delivered to The Art Theater, 126 W. Church St., Champaign, IL, 61820, attn.: New Art Film Festival 2017 c/o Jason Pankoke, with the above information included as hard copy or electronic document; sending an e-mail of the same information to the NAFF is also acceptable. For 2017, organizers will only accept pieces with a run time of 30 minutes or less, but there is no cost to enter as before.

The NAFF welcomes all genres and is interested in receiving short subjects, Webisodes, and trailers or excerpts from long-form pieces. Entries should have been produced within the last three years. Final selections will be announced on or near Sunday, October 1, 2017. Further information can be found at The NAFF is presented by the Art Theater and C-U Confidential, the source for Champaign-Urbana film culture since 2006.


Jason Pankoke
Program Director, New Art Film Festival

Austin McCann
General Manager, The Art Theater