Smile Politely

Sculpture hopping

A familiar scenario: You have had a wonderful night enjoying your favorite libation at one of C-U’s downtown watering holes while soaking in the eclectic nightlife. As you make your way to your car and home, designated driver safely in tow, you notice a unique and ethereal piece of sculpture standing regally near your car. It may have a splash of color, an interesting abstract shape, or be a realistic representation of a sweet young girl in repose. Regardless, you take it in, and you judge it. It has become a major pastime amongst those partying in C-U.

Is it lovely? Is it weird? What is it? What’s it made of? Do you love or hate it? Is it art? A dialogue ensues with some vigorous debate: a true sign that, yep, it’s art. After a bit, you hop in your vehicle and taxi home, noticing multiple other pieces of sculpture dotting the C-U landscape. Your last thought before drifting off that night is: Where the Hell did that come from?

Glad you asked!

“The Public Art League (PAL) is a…public charity whose focus is the installation, maintenance and promotion of public artwork in Champaign-Urbana. We identify potential works by conducting an annual, open call to artists who are willing to lease their works for a period of time for a contracted sum. Once finalists have been selected, PAL raises funds to bring the pieces to the community for installation.  While on exhibit, artists have the opportunity to sell their work with the assistance of PAL.”

The preceding quote is taken from a Public Art League brochure celebrating their recent event “unveling event.” This past Thursday, new works were displayed (after a fashion) at Indi Go Artist Co-op; these works represent sculptures which could well find their way into our community in the coming months. (For a virtual tour of the current works, complete with locations, descriptions, and prices, visit

Thursday’s event at Indi Go was a wine and cheese gala which featured a slideshow of the potential sculpture candidates in a continuous loop playing on the lower level of the gallery. A lovely spread of finger foods was also offered. In the main level of the gallery, there was a table with photos of the potential sculptures and complimentary wine, all of which was liberally inspected. The new offerings range from the whimsical and abstract to the hyper-realistic, and they are composed of various media including stone, metal, and various plastic products.

The event was well-attended by the arts community and those who support it, and all seemed enthusiastic about this project, as one might expect. In a time when the value of the arts is constantly called into question in our schools and politics, it was refreshing to see a group of people support the addition of art to our daily lives, and the work of various artists.  

There will be nine new sculptures to hit the area, each leased through 2015. They range from the aforementioned reposing girl, a whimsical metal tree, a colorful array of pipes, a metal representation of wind, various puzzle-piece abstracts, and a large metal planet which looks not unlike a giant soccer ball. All are very bold and provocative pieces and—love them or hate them — their presence gives our community a unique and evocative ambience. These sculptures beautify various leisure areas around our community, and can provide a quiet reflection on the way to or from downtown or an art object to debate and show your friends. The website also tells you how to donate to the Public Art League’s cause. Imagine our community with a constantly evolving landscape of art for years to come, and then donate to the future of the C-U art scene!

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