Smile Politely

When Champaign closes a gallery, Urbana opens a new one

In January, the former Gallery 217 — run by the owners of Lola’s Brush — announced that they would need to close because their rent at 9 E. University near downtown Champaign had doubled since the gallery’s opening. Gallery 217 was an awesome two-story art space, and the location of my first Smile Politely review. So while I am happy that Flatland Tattoo Studio Midwest Barber and New Life Tattoos has taken its place, I was saddened. Is nothing in this town permanent? Is all of life just a pop-up? Wherefore “Cookies by Design?” 

But fear not: there is a new gallery in town. The Gilbert Gallery, located at 102 West Main Street in Urbana (upstairs at the former Silverman and Associates legal services), opened on July 6th with a showing of eleven artists in a variety of media. I spoke with gallery owner Ilene Silverman about starting the gallery and her plans for the future

Ilene Silverman’s career trajectory is a long and storied one: in the era before computers she worked as a graphic designer and created diplomas and special awards in calligraphy for the University of Illinois. She taught art at the high school level: at the Columbia Center — Champaign School District’s alternative program for middle and high schoolers, which closed in 2009 — and then at Centennial High School. Two years into retirement she missed working with others artists, and thus the Gilbert Gallery was born.

Ilene Silverman with James Dorner’s Dumbo

The Gilbert Gallery is located in the former law offices of Silverman’s late husband, which she owns. According to Silverman, “one of the primary goals was to have a venue for people to show their work, with the stipulation to keep prices down for people who have not had original artwork in the past.” Most pieces in the gallery are between $25 and $500. Because it’s a consignment gallery, Silverman gets a percentage of the profits.

The Gilbert Gallery hosted an opening reception on Thursday, July 6th featuring 11 artists. These artists were mostly local, and represented a wide range of disciplines. Silverman is looking for accomplished artists who reflect a certain level of skill and will have success displaying and selling their work. Although many of the pieces were not as challenging as what you might see somewhere like the Krannert Gallery, the level of skill evident was pretty awe-inspiring. I recognized Jillian Nickel’s whimsical silkscreen prints — Nickel is a local illustrator and screenprinter who has done freelance work for NPR and The Washington Post. Kristen Elizabeth Gilmore’s poured agate paintings seemed to be a big hit with visitors, and I particularly enjoyed Hua Nian’s original ink drawings. 3D art was equally well represented, with James Dorner’s harley art (each sculpture made out of recycled harley davidson parts), out-of-state artist Debra Ann’s mobiles, and Wesley Seitz’s carved wooden boxes.

Hua Nian, Mongolian Dancer

Jillian Nickel, Sprinkles

A Debra Ann mobile

Taylor Lee paintings

While the Gallery’s hours of operation are in flux as Silverman determines when she can expect the most traffic, she puts the sign out front to signal that people are welcome to come in when she is at the gallery (in addition, she is open to arranging individual showings). Her goal is to rotate a new show in every month, hosting a reception on the first Thursday of each month for the first three months, and keeping the gallery open through Urbana First Fridays. She has some themed group shows in the works, including a photography exhibition and an exhibition of Champaign’s Monday Evening Life Drawing Group (MELD) in October.

Though art galleries come and go, I would put my money on the Gilbert Gallery. I am excited to see what’s in store for the fall. The next show, which will feature mostly new artists and several from the opening exhibit, is set to run August 3rd-10th. Keep an eye on the Gilbert Gallery Facebook page for more details.

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