Smile Politely

Five things in arts this month: January 2021

Happy New Year! We’ve turned over the proverbial calendar page, but yet the days ahead may still seem a bit too quiet, especially for local arts enthusiasts.  Making a fresh start in COVID times is challenging, but not impossible. This month, consider not what you will watch or attend, but rather what will fuel you, or spark your creativity. Or perhaps, see how participating in the arts, whether as audience member, student, or maker, can ground you. For this writer, “keeping my hands busy” with yarn, paint, or ink, is calming. The certaintly of a pattern, musical or graphic, is a fine antidote for overthinking and worry. The act of making is inherently life-affirming. And if your inspo needs a New Year’s tune-up, consider exploring a new art form. You might learn a new skill, or better yet, a new way of thinking. If you work in a visual medium, set your sights on movement or music. You’ll be surprised what it brings to work, and to your mood. Last, but not least, remember what it was like to play. And to this end I’ve included some suggestions you can enjoy with the child in your life, or your own inner child. 

View Springer Cultural Center’s latest virtual group art exhibition

Postcard image featuring three painting from Down to Earth, the new virtual art exhibition offered by the Springer Cultural Center. Image from their website

Image from Champaign Park District website

Springer Cultural Center’s corridor gallery is a mainstay for emerging and experienced artists. And I’m so happy to see they have continued on with a virtual offerings. Down to Earth, a group show featuring Satami Kamei, Emily Weber, and Will Van Dyke, explores a variety of urban, rural, and natural landscapes in various media. Kamei works in “en plein air” style, Weber investigates the “human impact on our natural environment,” and Van Dyke, a ceramic artist and former architect, is “grounded in the prairie of the Midwest,” and celebrates “forgotten utilitarian structures, many of which are disappearing from the landscape, rural and urban.”

Down to Earth
featuring Salomi Kamel, Emily Weber, and Will Van Dyke
Hosted by Springer Cultural Center
Available to view online January 7th through February 11th

Self-Care Stitching

Close up of woman's hands working on cross-stitch embroidery. Photo from the Urbana Free Library Facebook page

Photo from Urbana Free Library Facebook event page

Cross-stitch has been the quarantine craft equivalent of sourdough bread, and for good reason. This once quaint pastime has also become a powerful means of social and political messaging, and of course, sharp-tongued wit. Remember those catharisis-inducing 2020 dumpster fire patterns? With a range of simple stitches and more complex patterns, cross stitch has the right blend of repetition and challenge to keep you in your happy place. 

Champaign-Urbana is lucky to a number of talented makers who are leading the cross stitch charge. And now, thanks to Lisa Connery of Crass Stitching and the Urbana Free Library,you can join the revolution. You’ll learn how to design your own wellness-themed project inlcuding how to create pattners  on paper and via software (session 1) and choose, execute, and troubleshoot your stitching. This class is suggested for intermediate cross stitchers. 

Self-Care Stiching
Hosted by the Urbana Free Library
Online and free
Session 1: Thurdsay, January 14th, 6:30 p.m. through 7:30 p.m., register here
Session 2: Thursday, January 21st, 6:30 p.m. through 7:30 p.m., register here

Listen to musician and spoken word artist Pete Shungu 

Photo of musician and spoken word artists Pete Shungu on black background with event title in white text. Image from the Urbana Free Library's Facebook page.

Photo from Urbana Free Library Facebook event page

Nothing is more inspiring that watching an artist who brings things together in a new way. Log on to the UFL’s Facebook page to hear trumpet player, hip hop MC, spoken word poet Pete ‘Afro D’ Shungu in a mosty solo set featuring a variety of styles. 

Shungu, who currently plays trumpet and raps with the C-U based jazz/hip hop/funk band Afro D & Global Soundwaves, “strives to use poetry and music as a vehicle to educate, build community and create positive social change.” This performance promises to bring just the kind of experience so many of us are craving right now.  

Pete Shungu
Hosted by Urbana Free Library
Online and free
Sunday, January 17th, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Follow Giertz Gallery’s Parkland Art + Design Faculty spotlight series

Close-up photo of handmade pendant featuring pointy organic purple shape with white center. Photo from Giertz Gallery Facebook page.

Photo from Giertz Gallery Facebook page

While I’ve really been missing the in-person Giertz Gallery experience, I’ve been enjoying their social media focusing on the work of Parkland’s Art and Design faculty. As the steady stream of compelling images continues to prove, Parkland faculty are both inspiring teachers and inspired artists. Pictured above is the worlk of Denise Seif, who uses “vivid enamels on copper as a foil for the natural shapes she carves in wood; she sensitively explores the materials and their unique properties.”

Seif explains that she “[looks] at sources, including tissue stains, diatoms, fungi, and seeds. I am intrigued by their diversity in color, form, and their relationship with the surfaces they grow on. These pieces are my quiet contemplation on the complexity of nature.” These pendants are from 2015 and are both fabricated using walnut, copper, and enamel. “Seed #2” (right – blue) is 3 x 2.25 x .75 inches and “Seed #3” (left – white) is 3 x 3 x .5 inches.

Follow the Giertz Gallery on Facebook and Instagram.

Learn something new, make something new, or resolve to share your work

Crop of front cover of the Champaign Park District's winter/spring 2021 program guide. Image from the Champaign Park District

Image from Champaign Park District website

Whether you’re craving a single workshop or semester-long commitment, there are lots of great opportunities to explore a new art form, and some of them are even free. Remember, this kind of learning isn’t about grades or perfection. It’s about exploring. 

For single workshop, check out Collage Concepts, hosted by the Champaign Public Library, on January 13th. Or join the kids in your life for the Artsy Smartsy series offerings, also hosted by CPL, which includes Snowman Snack Boxes on January 14th, and Beaded Snowflakes on January 28th. And doesn’t your inner child want to make Sock Puppets with Sal, hosted by the Urbana Free Library, on January 16th?

For longer-commitments, download a copy of the 2021 Champaign Park District program guide. Hint: the arts offerings start on page 10. Parkland College’s Community Education Program also offers a nice variety of Zoom-based and in-person visual arts classes.

Who know what can happen once you start. You might even want to submit your art work for group show at Springer Cultural Center (hello #artistgoals). 

Cheerrs to 2021 and to creating something new and living with renewed creativity. 

Top image from the Champaign Public Library Facebook event page

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