Smile Politely

Brief Encounters with Art: Lierman Neighborhood Community Garden

Inspired by the ways in which COVID-19 has limited and transformed our in-person access to and experience of galleries, festivals, museums, and other designated art spaces, Brief Encounters with Art investigates the power, potential, and complexities of encountering art in passing moments and unexpected locations. If you have suggestions, ideas, or feedback, feel free to contact us at [email protected].

My recent encounter with EKAH’s Points of View marks Smile Politely’s first, but certainly not last, exploration of The Great ARTdoors initiative and the ten new 3D works installed throughout Champaign-Urbana. A collaboration between 40 North, Spurlock Museum, Urbana Arts & Culture Program, the Champaign Park District, and the Urbana Park District, The Great ARTdoors provides a much-needed infusion of new art. “Guided by the belief that public art has the ability to visually and intellectually activate spaces by connecting people and sparking dialogue,” it also brings art to new and unexpected locations.

For EKAH, this work continues her exploration of analog animation in the form of lenticular images. In March 2020, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, EKAH made the difficult decision to cancel what would have been the second part of her Magic Lantern project unveiling. And though her Facebook and Instagram followers know she has been working throughout the pandemic, this return to lenticular art was an unexpected and inspiring surprise. Points of View brings the magic of the magic lantern to fans old and new all while creating a captivating example and COVID-friendly of site-specific art. 

Location: Lierman Neighborhood Community Garden, Urbana. SE corner of Washington and Lierman.

Installation format: Acrylic on expanded PVC sheet mounted on cradled wood board. 8 ft x 2 ft x 5.5 in (244 cm x 61 cm x 14 cm). Painted-surface area (11 ft x 2 ft (335 cm x 61 cm).

Artist: EKAH

Artist statement: Points of View | Lenticular

Three-inch strips make up slices of painted panels creating a single image. Images change as the viewer moves across the piece depending on the position of the viewer.

Viewing access:

Points of View‘s corner location affords it ease of discovery. Viewed while driving or riding on a bus, one gets a taste, a rush of color against the green garden. But the magic of lenticular art doesn’t fully reveal itself at first glance. I recommend approaching on foot and then making a second pass in the opposite direction in order to experience the secrets of its second image. The open access of the garden invites both the broad perspective and the examination of details up close-up.

Photo of EKAH's Points of View at Lierman Neighborhood Community Garden. Photo from 40 North Facebook.

Close up photo of EKAH's Points of View (crimson side). Photo from 40 North Facebook.

My brief encouter, in brief:

As a long-time resident of Urbana, my approach to this intersection inspires a type of internal animation as my memory slides back and forth between the vision of an undeveloped lot, to the welcome sight of the bountiful community garden, to its current state as home to sustenance for both the body and the creative spirit. I take a moment to regard the face of a woman who I come to think as a modern day Demeter, goddess of agriculture. She watches and protects. She challenges you to find your own garden to grow, whether it involves planting seeds in the soil or layering paint on wood. And I can’t help but love the fact that she’s draped in my most favorite colors. I leave the garden thinking about butterflies.

Photo of the Lierman Neighborhood Community Garden prior to the installation of EKAH's Points of View. Photo from 40 North website,

Closing thoughts:

When I get home I go back to the photos of Points of View and the Lierman Neighborhood Community Garden. And then I see it. The butterfly at the top of the garden’s signage. With this shared motif, Points of View pays tribute to the mission of the community garden. Butterflies symbolize growth and transformation. They remind us of the power of endurance and hope. And we can certainly use a big dose of those right about now. Here at the southeast corner of LIerman and Washington two forces for good coalesce into an even great form of magic. 

Photo of longview of EKAH's Points of View (crimson side) at the Lierman Neighborhood Community Garden. Photo from 40 North Facebook.

Be warned that Points of View, along with the nine other works in The Great ARTdoors, will only remain in view through the end of November. So make a plan to have your own brief encounter soon. 

All photos from 40 North Facebook, except the fourth, which is from the 40 North website.

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