Smile Politely

Get your Culture here: Three experiences to have in April 2020

I almost laughed typing the word “experiences” in the title of this article. This weird existence basically discourages experiencing anything in the way we typically define that word, or at least the way I define it for purposes of writing this column every month. I think of an “experience” as something to “go out and do,” and when you are supposed to “stay-at-home” that doesn’t really work. So, like we are doing in every aspect of our lives, I must adapt. The actual definition of experience is an “event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone.” I suppose we have to change our expectations on what will leave an impression. We have to think a bit smaller, but that doesn’t mean the experiences we have while staying close to home need to be any less significant. Our C-U culture is still thriving, despite daily obstacles changing how and when we can engage with it. Here are a few ways to experience our community this month from either the safety of your home or safely socially distanced from others.

A large fanciful costume that is covered in fur. There is a headpiece with fangs and large green and yellow eyes with exaggerated black eyelashes. White and yellow feathers extend from either side. The body has white furry arms and pink furry legs. Photo by Cope Cumpston.

A drag costume from the In Her Closet exhibit. Photo by Cope Cumpston. 

“Visit” a museum

Explore women’s history with Museum of the Grand Prairie

March was Womens’ History Month. We got a winner of one this year, huh ladies? One (of many) things in C-U that we can’t go check out in person right now is the new “How Long Must Women Wait?” exhibit, chronicling the women’s suffrage movement locally and nationally. You can read a bit about it here. Thankfully, the museum is going to do a virtual tour via Facebook live this month. Seems like a great opportunity for a social studies “field trip” for those of us who have kids at home that we are trying to expose to some sort of learning while they are out of school, but will surely be interesting for non-kid people too. Just head over to their Facebook page at 7 p.m. on April 6th. The tour will last an hour.

Bring In Her Closet into your home

Travis Stansel, Assistant Registrar for Photography and Photographic Archives at Spurlock Museum had the unique job of creating a playlist for the In Her Closet — How to Make a Drag Queen exhibit at the museum. From their recent Facebook post about it: “I sought input from many people connected with drag communities and with our exhibit. I reached out to the artists who loaned us garments for the exhibit, asked staff members, looked at Sasha Velour’s Drag Race performances, and asked a friend who was a regular at a weekly drag DJ night in Chicago for suggestions.” He graciously shared the Spotify playlist of songs from the exhibit, so we can brighten our days a little. You can see some of the pieces from the exhibit in our article about the opening last September. 

Dig into Champaign County History

The Champaign County History Museum is closed, but you can still get a history fix by checking out their blog. Museum board president TJ Blakeman and his crew know a lot about this area, and they’ve written a bunch of entries about interesting Champaign County people, places, and events. 

A gravel path with a strip of grass growing down the center. The path is frame by dense rows of trees. The sunlight is coming through the trees. Photo by Addison McClure.

Riverbend Forest Preserve. Photo by Addison McClure.

Explore some lesser known trails

Last summer I “discovered” Riverbend Forest Preserve in Mahomet. Of course it has been there a long time, and other people know about it, but even after living in this area for 20 years I’d never sought it out. I found it to be quite lovely and peaceful. It has a couple of one mile long trails, so you don’t have to devote a whole afternoon. Find a full list of forest preserve hiking options on the CCFPD website, and be sure to take a look at the plants and animals you may spot in the month of April.

Allerton recently opened a portion of their hiking trails; those that are on the south side of the park. Most, including myself, spend a good deal of time in the portion of the park with the gardens, visitors center, and mansion, but these are areas where it’s more likely for folks to congregate. Here’s an opportunity to explore some other paths. There are six miles of them available to you.

Please, friends, hike responsibly. You won’t have restrooms available so plan ahead. If you do encounter others, maintain your distance. Don’t meet up with a big group, just go by alone or with the people in your house. Take trash with you, as there may not be staff monitoring the trash receptacles. We want to keep these outdoor treasures available to us, so be smart, people. 

A long brown table with a row of large white buckets on top. There is a large blue box of Crisp Rice cereal visible in each bucket. Photo from Red Herring Facebook page.

Buckets of essentials assembled by the Bucket Brigade. Photo from Red Herring Facebook page. 

Support your community

There’s no better way to connect with your community right now than to find a way to support it. Information has been fast and furious over the past few weeks, and it’s difficult to sort it all out. Here at SP we’ve been trying our best to keep up with it all. Now that we’re facing at at least another month of this, we can pause and take a breath and see where we can best serve others. If all you can handle right now is keeping yourself and your household afloat, then just do that. If you need additional assistance, the School of Social Work has put together a pretty comprehensive list of resources, and the Department of Psychology has a site that can direct you to mental health resources

However, if you are able and have the means, this is a good time to consider donating to organizations that are out there doing the work: Red Herring and Channing Murray and their Bucket Brigade endeavor, Developmental Services Center is collecting donations of food and household items, Community Foundation of East Central Illinois has set up a fund to assist those most in need, the New American Welcome Center has an Immigrant Relief Fund (use NAWC IRF in the note). 

We consistently encourage you to continue to get takeout and delivery from the restaurants you love, but don’t forget about other places we can’t visit right now. Orpheum Children’s Science Museum is posting daily activities for kids to do, but they are going to be greatly hurt by being closed. They, along with lots of other local businesses, have partnered with Weiskamp in an online store where you can purchase logo t-shirts. A portion of the proceeds will go back to those businesses and organizations you care about. 

Top photo from Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page. 

Managing Editor

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