It's hard to believe that the Boneyard Arts Festival is turning 17. Time flies when you're showcasing emerging and established local artists and bringing art to unexpected places. This year's festival spans four days and features 110+ venues exhibiting the work of hundreds of local artists.
I recently put out a call to this year's artists asking what they wanted you to know about their work, what they most enjoy about BYAF, why it's so signfiicant to our community, and how to get the most out of it. Here's what I found out.
Smile Politely: What's the one thing you want people to know about your work?
Cindi Norton: I'm a self-taught, colored pencil and graphite artist whose artworks are freehand drawings created from my personal photos taken around Illinois and New Orleans. I believe anyone can learn to draw no matter their age or experience, it just takes patience, practice, and persistence!
Melissa Mitchell: Because I worked full-time as a writer for 30 years, I can't help but weave some sort of narrative element into my art. Whether I'm creating an assemblage using salvaged/repurposed materials or off on a self-directed photo-safari, a story will almost always emerge. And 9 times out of 10, humor — subtle or overt — will be the designated driver.
Caroline Goldsmith: Inspired from being outside my oil paintings painted onsite capture the invigorated feeling I get from my surroundings to produce an original landscape, marinescape or cityscape that expresses that moment and the beauty.
Tessa Turner: I want people to know that the human experience is universal. Yes, there are so many things that set us apart and make us different, but we all experience joy and suffering. These experiences bring us closer. I want people to be able to seek refuge in my music, to find comfort. Writing and performing music has been a way for me to heal and I want to share that passion with whoever's willing to listen.
Marc-Anthony Macon: I like to play instead of work. My art is play, done without thought, and I hope the fun I had making it comes through.
Freya Replinger: My work is eye-catching. I like to push the limits and have people view the world around them from a different perspective. I like to play around with light, color, and composition to create an unique image. Sometimes it's hard for people to decipher if my photography is a painting or photograph.
Jim O'Brien: The CU Poetry Group will be hosting their fifth annual Boneyard Arts reading at Jane Addams Bookshop. It's the perfect venue for us because of all the books and we are a good match for them because they don't have a lot of vertical space available for visual arts.
Faith Gabel: My floral paintings are more than just pretty things. A lot of emotion and feeling goes into each piece — every one has a story, and almost a personality in my mind! I get to know them as I paint and I get very attached — it's hard to let them go when they sell.
Barry Abrams: My work is a crossroads of exploration and getting things done. There's no artistry without the journey, and there's no finished piece without the destination. In the process, I tend to spend a lot of time exploring all the possible journeys I can take — what aesthetic am I going for, what color palette I'm using, what kind of effects I can create with the printing process — and then reeling it all in and getting things accomplished.
I took a leap of faith with my black hole room. I had no idea what it was going to look like until I did 90% of the work. I didn't know if the ink was going to be visible in the prints until I painted the walls black, installed the lights, printed a poster and turned the lights on. To my surprise, it worked pretty well! I had to tweak some of the ink colors and the choice of paper I was using needed to change but it looked pretty freaking cool. Once I confirmed my plan was working I locked myself in a room for two long days and cranked out 16 new posters.
Smile Politely: What's your favorite part of BYAF?
Cindi Norton: BYAF is a great way to meet people and get them inspired to create art themselves.
Melissa Mitchell: My favorite part of BYAF is that it happens each year at precisely the time when the earth and all its living creatures are waking up in Central Illinois and beginning to crawl out of their dark caves, cozy squirrel nests, and deep, dark funk-encrusted holes, empowered and ready to kick old man winter to the curb. Dormant (and sometimes seasonally depressed) artists are suddenly driven by deadlines to create again, and all the people in the community are similarly energized and eager to hit the streets. Just like that (finger snap!), the hive is alive, and the buzz is back. Spring, sprang, sprung. Most years (though not all), the long BYAF weekend is infused with one of the season's first serious doses of warm air, and the faint scent of spring-blooming flowers and trees permeates our senses and makes us giddy. I feel always feel a sugar-like high coming on I push through the deadline streass, don my "company clothes" (well, maybe just *little* nicer than my usual paint-splattered T-shirts-and-jeans uniform) and head to the studio (with the top down on my car, if possible). I can't wait to greet old and new friends who stream through the Lincoln Building in downtown Champaign (where my ACME Elfworks Art Studio and ArtSpace is located). I love seeing their reactions to my new work. This year will be especially fun, as enthusiasm has been building for the "Echoes" show I'm curating in the ACME Elfworks Artspace (my photographs paired with "inspired-by"/responding work by more in several mediums by than a dozen artists across the country and beyond).
The hardest thing about BYAF for me and most other artists, though, is not being able to join the revelry and have the opportunity to tour all the venues and see what friends and other artists have are sharing with the public.
Caroline Goldsmith: The art collectors within the community inspire me to keep working no matter where my Plein Air Event travels take me, to bring back my best to the Urbana Gilbert Gallery.
Barry Abrams: Boneyard is a celebration to the insane amount of artistic talent this community has. There are people from all walks of life contributing to making the festival special. You've got folks who cross stitch while they relax and watch their nightly TV alongside professional artists who are out there making a living doing their thing.
Luiz Angel Lopez Rodriguez: The interaction with people is my favorite part and to meet more artists that are local to share ideas and build friendships.
Lori Fuller: The Boneyard festival is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to this huge art event. Its an opportunity to connect with different artists, view an array of local art, and enjoy it all in the midst of a wonderful community. It is the one true time that I feel like an artist. I work full-time at the Registrar's Office and create art for fun, mostly on the weekends. Its the important events like this that allow you to truly feel like an artist and share your dreams and passion with the community. I love it!
Smile Politely: What's the one thing you want people to know about BYAF, its significance for the community and for artists?
Tessa Turner: I want people to know that supporting the artists of BYAF doesn't end after the Festival. I highly recommend going to the BYAF website and scrolling through the Artists page. Read their biographies and visit their social media, websites, or stores! It is so important that we encourage and support local artists/musicians/etc. and it doesn't always have to be financially. If you like someone's art/music/etc. let them know. Tell them in person if you have the chance, comment online, or leave a good review.
Marc-Anthony Macon: Champaign-Urbana has a rich, wild, weird, and diverse art history and a vibrant art community that continues to produce amazing, inspiring, and hilarious work that is idiosyncratic to the twin cities we call home. Venue-hopping all weekend is a delightful way of seeing the variety and depth of expression this community has to offer, while being introduced to a host of fantastic local businesses that make our area unique. Champaign-Urbana is home to an explosion of culture usually reserved for large cities, but we're lucky enough to have right here, ensconced in all this corn. Boneyard brings the best of C-U to light!
Freya Replinger: Being an artist in Champaign-Urbana is awesome. The artist community is warm, inviting, engaging, and supportive. I am part of the Miscellany group for BYAF. We are exhibiting our work in the old Rogard's building in Champaign. Miscellany is comprised of 16 artists who specialize in a variety of different mediums — painting, sculpture, paper making, graphic design, animation, woodworking, photography, fiber art, and poetry. Being a part of this group and transforming an empty room into an art gallery has been a truly amazing experience!
Beth Chasco: The best thing about being an artist in CU is the open, encouraging support of other artists and the artist community at large. 40 North provides so many opportunities to us. It is through these opportunities I have been encouraged to submit my work and to meet other artists. I’ve been told this is not the norm in most communities and so I am very grateful I began my creative pursuits here.
Jim O'Brien: 40 North, along with Urbana Public Arts Department and a number of other individuals who are very generous of spirit have facilitated an artist's community that is diverse, healthy, thriving, and supportive. Visual arts, musicians, spoken word, dance, and more are on display and in some cases, participatory each year at BYAF. I guess one thing I want people to know is that there is no way to see it all, so choose something new to you and experience it.
Faith Gabel: That this art community is so inclusive and welcoming! Everyone genuinely wants to help you succeed. If you have the desire to show your art - don't be afraid. There are so many opportunities here, and so many other artists willing to share what they know.
Luis Angel Lopez Rodriguez: The people from CU are amazing always friendly and supportive and that makes us artists to feel appreciate in this community
Photo from Boneyard Arts Festival Facebook page. It is a portion of Robert Chapman's Weaving #5, mixed media and assemblage on woven canvas.