Smile Politely

Art for all: Champaign Contemporary art exhibit

So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “pop-up gallery?” Is it one those pop-up books whose characters spring up in your face when you open the page? A gallery that is showcasing “pop-up” art? 

Is pop-up art even a real thing?

Well, while I make a note to research that later tonight, a pop-up gallery is a gallery that does pretty much just what it sounds like: it opens for a few days, does its thing, and then closes. The upcoming exhibition titled Champaign Contemporary will do its thing this Friday, April 10th, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 11th, from noon to 8 p.m. What makes this exhibition unique, besides the fact that it will only be around for two days, is that it features work exclusively from artists who live in and around Champaign-Urbana.  

Katie Latona and Melonie Mulkey, the brains, muscle, and heart behind the entire exhibit, told me what they’re hoping it will achieve, as well as what they hope people will take away from it. Going along with the name of the exhibit, the focus will be on art that addresses the present moment while also fostering dialogue between the University and the community. What type of dialogue is it going to be, you may ask?  “For this show I wanted to create a dialogue of art works that were from the University Master of Fine Arts Students and the community, and see how these works could speak to each other in a collaborative and harmonious way,” said Mulkey. “We are all living and breathing as bodies in this space, so I thought that the art work should have the same opportunity.”

And what better way to inspire that type of discussion than through contemporary art? Admittedly, I was a little nervous when I heard that it was solely contemporary art exhibit. When I was growing up, there were many modern or contemporary art museums in my town, and most of them I would walk into, trail around for a few moments, then quickly leave because I couldn’t for the life of me understand what I was looking at. 

I have little worry about this exhibit having the same effect. Katie Latona describes contemporary art as, “Less about subject matter and more about this moment in time. How are artists today responding to culture, information, and identity? Many artists in the show are presenting more than one work, and part of the curatorial choice is wanting to highlight how artists explore this issue in their practice.”

To me, that sounds like something we can all relate to, because we’re all experiencing the same problems facing society today, together. And since that’s what the art in the exhibit is addressing, then I expect there will be very few, if any, “Huh?” moments. The exhibit includes work from areas such as painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, installation, and more, so I can almost guarantee that there will be something for everyone to enjoy. 

Also after all of the work Latona and Mulkey have put in to making this exhibit a reality, it already stands as a sort of success. They started working on the exhibit four months ago; but, where most curators might just have to pull together the works of art, they had to start with a truly empty space. ”You have to go through a lot of red tape to get access to the space,” explained Mulkey. “Then, once you are in, you have to clean, paint, patch walls, makes sure there’s water and electricity. In galleries, these things just exist; so when you have to make everything out of nothing, it really changes your perspective in terms of the exhibit itself.”

The amount of work necessary to put this exhibit together may have been daunting, but here we are, poised for the exhibit to open. However, if you’re still worried that all this “contemporary art” might not be for you, let those fears be banished. According to Mulkey and Latona, this is art for all, and they truly do want anyone and everyone to come. Said Latona, “We are really excited about the caliber of work in the show, and are so happy to share that with the community. I’d hope that people came away from the exhibition feeling thrilled that all these artists are living and working here, and that they’d want to see more work from them.”

See? It’s meant for you, your family and friends, pretty much everyone across the board. So open up your Friday night, because there’s a whole lot of art and culture about to pop up.

Champaign Contemporary will be open Friday night from 6 to 8 p.m., accompanied by refreshments and live music. It will be open again Saturday from 12 to 8 p.m. at 102 South Neil (formerly CV Lloyde).

All photos by Katie Latona. Work of artists as follows:

1.  Benjamin Cook / Jina Seo / MMAFT

2.  Harvey Opgenorth / Viktoria Ford (this is back in the other room) / Jenna Richards / Sarah Gillespie / Jason Patterson / Angelo Ray Martinez (piece on floor)

3.  Judith Adanma Johnson / Jina Seo (on pedestal) / Angelo Ray Martinez

4.  Harvey Opgenorth (near the baseboard) / Warren Bensken & Jon Frette

5.  Angelo Ray Martinez / Hilary Pope

6.  Julie Bunch / CJ McCarrick (in the other room) / Jason Patterson

7.  Maria Lux

8.  Judith Adanma Johnson

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