Smile Politely

Five things in arts: October 2023

a table at small press fest displays small booklets.
Small Press Fest on Facebook

October always feels to me like the start of holiday season. It’s finally safe to do some themed decorating (unless you are one of those people who puts up Halloween decorations in September), it’s time to go to the pumpkin patch (or not), and then before you know it, it’s Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season. This month, there are a couple of fall-themed arts events, and plenty more that have nothing to do with the season, but are sure to be great anyways. Check out my suggestions for five things to do in the arts this month below:

5 elaborately carved pumpkins featuring frankenstein, a skull, and angry scary faces
Franzen’s Pumpkin Carving on Facebook

Urbana Fall Fusion Festival

This weekend is the first ever Urbana Fall Fusion Festival. The event is the result of the collaboration between 40 North and the Urbana Arts and Culture Program. The two organizations were also responsible for the PostMark Urbana event last month. The Fall Fusion Festival will have face painting, balloon art, caricatures, bubbles, a slime station, a luminary craft, and more. There were also be a professional pumpkin carving demonstration, circus, hula hooping and fire dancing, and music.

Urbana Fall Fusion Festival
Downtown Urbana
Oct 7
Sa 4 to 8 p.m.

left: Katherine Gaffney, a white woman with medium length blonde-brown hair. She is smiling at the camera, wearing a denim sleeveless top and glasses. Right- the cover of Gaffney's poetry collection reads Fool in a Blue House in blue cursive font. There is a painting of a woman bent over a sink as the backdrop.
Katherine Gaffney

Poetry Reading and Author Event: Katherine Gaffney

Katherine Gaffney, who received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Illinois, will be featured at an author even at the Literary this month. Gaffney is a poet, scholar of Romanticism and Disability Studies, and educator. Her latest poetry collection, Fool in a Blue House, “swings with honesty between the ideal life imagined in a model kitchen and the more true place where we find ourselves.” The book explores interior and exterior spaces, familial and romantic love, loss, and even rabbits. Fool in a Blue House won the 2022 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry.

Author Event: Katherine Gaffney
The Literary
122 N Neil St
Oct 11
W 7 to 8 p.m.

two female dancers wearing floor length black dresses dance on a dimly lit stage. They are mirroring each other
Dance at Illinois on Facebook

October Dance  

This year’s October Dance, the yearly exhibition put on by U of I’s Department of Dance, will feature five distinct female voices, with works by Martha Graham, Cynthia Oliver, Alexandra Barbier, Anna Sapozhnikov, and Nawal Assougdam. This group work will be “performed to live music by the American modernist composer, Wallingford Riegger, newly orchestrated by Dance at Illinois Music Director John Toenjes and conducted by Frances Ho.” If you can’t make it in person, the performance will be live-streamed on October 11th at 7:30 p.m. Opening night, October 12th, will include a panel discussion moderated by Sara Hook, and feature Martha Graham regisseur, Elizabeth Auclair and dramaturg, Betsy Brandt. The discussion is free and open to the public; it will be held at the Spurlock Museum at 6 p.m.

October Dance
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin Ave
Oct 12-14
Th-Sa 7:30 p.m.


Twin City Theatre Co is closing out their current season with Seascape, written by Edward Albee and directed by Mark Highland. The play depicts a middle-aged couple who, while lounging on a deserted beach, are approached by two lizards in an advanced stage of evolution (they talk!) that are contemplating life outside of the ocean. The conversations between the humans and lizards promise “warmth, humor and poetic eloquence, with emotional and intellectual reverberations that will linger in the heart and mind long after the play has ended.”

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
202 S Broadway Ave
Sept 27–29, Oct 3–5
Th + F 7:30 p.m.
Su 2 p.m.

A man stands behind a table at small press fest showing his products to attendees.
Small Press Fest on Facebook

Small Press Fest

The Small Press Fest is back, and will be held at Lincoln Square Mall at the end of the month. The event is a celebration of small press publications and DIY artists from Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding area. This year’s expo will feature more than 40 artists and vendors, as well as live printing. There are a number of other events associated with the event including a keynote by Ben Zenzer on Thursday the 26th; a workshop by Zenzer on the 27th entitled “Playful Book Making Skeuomorph Press”; a Small Press Soiree; and a Zine exhibit at Art Coop (store hours, October 7th to 29th). You can find info about all of the events on their website.

Small Press Fest
Lincoln Square Mall
201 Lincoln Square
Oct 28
Sa 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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