Smile Politely

We went to Boneyard 2024 and here’s what we saw

Abstract leafless trees in shadow against a white background. A pink globe hangs in the foreground. Colorful art prints of landscapes hang on the white wall.
Artists at Gallery Art Bar; Photo by Amy Penne

Jonah Weisskopf, guru of the Gallery Art Bar in Urbana, had the best quote of the weekend. “We literally have arts oozing out of every part of Champaign-Urbana. This is such a gifted and diverse arts community and we’re happy to be a part of it.” Bam. That’s how we do the Boneyard Arts Festival. The sheer variety of arts on display, for sale, being performed, and happening all over the county was overwhelming. With gorgeous spring winds blowing and moms wandering the University of Illinois campus and lunching in Champaign for Moms Day Weekend, last weekend kept us hopping here at Smile Politely. Some of our best writers and editors covered the arts beat last weekend. Several exhibits are ongoing so if you were out of town, you can still catch plenty of great art around town.

Abstract painting with a bright pink background, white clouds, and a beige staircase with arches leading to the clouds
Sydney Bruner, acrylic on canvas; Photo by Alejandra I. O. Pires

Analog Wine Bar

For this year’s Boneyard Arts Festival, Analog Wine Bar hosted the Flourish & Hue exhibition, featuring paintings by four artists: Clara de la Fuente, Leslie Kimble, Sydney Bruner, and Beth Chasco. All four artists had distinct styles, but shared a love for vibrant colors. I was struck by how all of these colors brought out distinct feelings in me, personally.

As my friends and I perused the room at Analog, one was especially struck by Leslie Kimble’s painting entitled California Poppies. This painting features a close-up of brightly colored poppies in one corner, and it angles out to show the whole field. I found it fitting that this particular friend would be drawn to this painting, since my friend is also bright, pretty, and full of sunshine. But this painting, like many of Kimble’s paintings, utilizes color in interesting ways. Kimble somehow manages to build an entire landscape or scene with just a few brushstrokes in a bright color, such as sunlight reflected on the road rendered in bright pink. Whether it’s sunlight, candle light, or the subtleties of shadow, Kimble thrives when she plays with light sources. Prints and other items are available on her Etsy shop, and she’s also an accomplished window-mural painter. It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend this exhibition and to be transported to so many visual landscapes, to find the familiar in the fantastic and to find the fantastic in the familiar. (AIOP)

Three people stand in front of brightly-colored acrylic abstract paintings of three different bulls in red, yellow, and teal
Yeong Choi and Boneyard 2024 paintings; Photo by Ian Wang

M2 and ReGroup

I can’t believe we’ve had over 20 years of Champaign County’s Boneyard Arts Festival. I still remember vividly more than 20 years ago my visit to a simple Downtown Champaign artists’ show displayed in the windows of an architecture office on a Saturday. I enjoyed seeing the signature artist’s original pieces after seeing them emblazoned on billboards and online. This year’s signature artist, Yeong Choi’s, bull paintings were a powerful continuation of that tradition. I asked Choi about her work and she noted that, indeed, “I painted them as self-portraits. I like the bull’s personality and characteristics, which are something I admire and would like to have, especially the fighting spirit and strength.” I also enjoyed Dennis Jamison’s abstract art at the Re-Group exhibit at the old ReStore on University Ave. His work was intriguing and I look forward to seeing what else he produces in the future. (IW)

Boneyard Arts Market

The historic Orpheum Theater played host to BAM!: Boneyard Artist’s Market with almost 30 different artists showcasing a variety of their goods from soaps to woodworking to glasswork. As I and other attendees entered the floor to explore, we were greeted by local pianist and instructor Leon Harrell of Virtuoso playing classic rock favorites by Elton John.

The event featured such locals as the Delight Flower Farm, who presented not only prepared bouquets of flowers, but also farm merchandise, and locally produced oils. Additionally, there were fine artists like Clara De La Fuente who exhibited her paintings in print form and even on practical items such as luggage tags and mousepads. Soap maker Emily of BeanBlossom Soaps bubbled with enthusiasm as she explained to me her process of using herbs in the soaps from her own garden. The soap maker offered soaps in a variation of scents as well as cuticle cream, lip balms, and more. This is just a sampling of the creativity that was on display, but it was a treat to attend! (MC)

On a white wall there are two framed watercolor prints of a rabbit reading and a rabbit walking.
Maxx Gogski prints; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Suzu’s Bakery

I am motivated by food, and so I was drawn to the Boneyard Arts Festival showcase at Suzu’s Bakery, Downtown Champaign’s bakery that specializes in from-scratch Japanese desserts. All the pieces displayed in the bakery for Boneyard were made by the staff, which I thought was pretty cool. Though the media were different, the art in the show felt cohesive as all were beautifully minimalist. At the entrance, a few striking embroidery floss pieces and silver gelatin prints hung on the white walls, and a multi-tiered shelf displayed a collection of earth-toned pottery. Beyond the register, there was this small collection of tiny watercolor and colored pencil art by Maxx Gogski, a local artist who creates “creepy-cute” art. And I couldn’t get over this piece entitled Wall.

Something about this clothed animal sitting on a bench looking beyond the teeny tiny frame (that Gogski made) caught me. It was beyond cute. The piece had me curious about the little creature. What were they looking at or waiting for, and why were they so casual, kicking their legs like that? I liked the detail that the creature had stylish black boots, and I loved the lack of detail in their adorable little face. Though the whole art showcase at Suzu’s didn’t take long to enjoy, it was still a satisfying encounter with art that fit with the lovely ambiance of the bakery and a look at something else beautiful the bakers at Suzu’s make besides the shop’s baked goods each week. (AB)

A tan wall with two art pieces framed on the wall. One the left is a portrait of a black woman wearing a golden crown with her hands on her face. On the right is a mixed media painting with a yellow background and figures standing together in colorful clothing with real hair attached to the canvas.
Louise Knight-Gibson

CU BIPOC Arts Collective

The CU BIPOC Collective — a group that centers Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the creative space — exhibit was tucked into a small alcove that holds the artists of the corridor exhibit on the main floor of the Urbana Free Library. There was a wide variety of works from 14 artists that ranged from mixed media to poetry to photography. I saw a few familiar names like Evette Campbell, Vivian Krishnan, and Siobhan McKissic. The art was arranged in a way that gave each piece room to breathe and there was space to really spend time with the artworks. Some were very straight forward, while others needed more time to digest. I enjoyed that I didn’t know what type of art was coming next as I moved down the wall. The works were a beautiful mix of stories and cultures. And, good news, if you didn’t catch the exhibit at Boneyard, the display will be up at UFL until June 30th. (LKG)

Artwork can be seen on the foreground of a wooden table and on the wall behind is shelves with more pictures in them, and a spinning rack with postcard sized images.
Louise Knight-Gibson

Jodi Adams at Golden Weather Goods

I’m no stranger to Golden Weather Goods, this beautifully curated store is always changing and I’m always leaving there with something. So I was very excited to see that Jodi Adams Photography was setting up shop there. Her setup had a lot of her new work, a haunting, black and white series set in an open space, surrounded by trees. What I like about Adams’ work is that her images are not just printed on traditional paper. She also creates metal prints which changes how the image is viewed. She has previously stated, “It is important to me to demonstrate beauty in something that is perceived by society as mundane.” For Boneyard, Adams work was set up like it would be at a traditional arts fair. Her work was displayed on a center table and on an adjacent wall, spinning rack, and tall shelf. There were a lot of print and size options as she brought work from a few of her other series. Adams was also there while I was and it was fun to listen to her talk about her work and the inspiration behind it. (LKG)

A display of colorful self portraits done by middle grade children. The portraits are colorful and laid out in a 3x3 grid.
Louise Knight-Gibson

USD #116 Elementary School Art Exhibit

In the Children’s department of the Urbana Free Library, the incredible artworks students of USD #116 was on display. Each school stuck to a theme and it made for an incredible way to observe the individuality of each artist. The artworks were attached to a large freestanding accordion board that was on the ground. This made for easy viewing at kid level, but was easy enough for an adult to view as well. Though it was simple since the art was displayed on both sides, you had to walk all the way around each one so the display created a lot of motion and it was a fun way to experience it. There were marble paintings, watercolors, and self portraits, based on Kehinde Wiley‘s work. The portraits were my favorite since you could really see the personality of each of the artists. (LKG)

Robert’s Fine Jewelry

I popped in to see the wonderfully unique pieces of jewelry and other art on display at this cozy nook tucked next to Seven Saints in Champaign. The craftsmanship of the jewelry and the beautiful charcoal work from Cindy Westfall is a good reminder of how many wonderful independent shops and artists we have the privilege to support in the area. Thanks, Erin Rogers, Denise Seif, Cindy Westfall, and Miranda Cork for all your work. (AP)

Five canvas prints hang on a white wall. The prints are colorful comic-book drawings of figures in jail, on a farm, and in front of a bright yellow window.
Mike Coulter’s prints; Photo by Alejandra I. O. Pires

Loose Cobra & Outpost

When I heard that Loose Cobra would be hosting an exhibition for the Boneyard Arts Festival, I was excited and intrigued. Loose Cobra is a favorite watering hole and I was excited to see what they had to offer this weekend. Organized by Matt Talbott, owner of Loose Cobra and a Champaign County musical mainstay, the exhibition was held in the warehouse next door. Visitors could grab a margarita in the parking lot, stroll on over to the warehouse, peruse some cool art, and then stroll back out and into the bar to enjoy some live music by Talbott himself and local band Nectar. 

The art in the exhibition featured some very cool pieces. I was exceptionally fond of Mike Coulter’s “Cowboys and Robots” comics, featuring sardonic dialogue, such as, “Jerry didn’t know the man at the door’s name, and he didn’t offer it. Still, he wasn’t there to sell steak knives or magazines. His business was murder” — which was just dark and funny enough to make me laugh heartily! There were also some wonderful abstract pieces by Talbott himself, as well as some work by Nectar’s Kamila Glowacki. Another series of works that stood out to me were Lisa Kesler’s collages made with paper, acrylic paint, wax, and even clay. These works were so textured that I had to stop myself from reaching out and touching them.

After browsing the art, I went over to the bar with my parking lot margarita and listened to some music. Talbott and Nectar played strikingly well, and the show wrapped up by 6 p.m. All in all, it was a beautiful way to spend the day at the end of this wonderful celebration of the arts. (AIOP)

The editors and writers who contributed to this article were Alyssa Buckley, Mary Cornell, Louise Knight Gibson, Amy Penne, Alejandra I.O. Pires, and Ian Wang.

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