Smile Politely

A look back at my DIY local art crawl

With summer schedules kicking in and arts programming slowing down, I recently offered you the challenge to create your own art crawl—visiting any number or combo of arts shows happening this month.  So, last week I decided to test drive my own advice and see where my DYI art fest would take me.  

My particular mash-up consisted of the following three venues: 

  • Common Ground: Work by Beth Darling and Lisa Marie Barber at the Springer Cultural Center
  • Artist of the Corridor  Exhibition | Linoleum + Ink featuring work by Urbana High School art students under the direction of Lisa Kesler
  • Analog Gallery’s June Show featuring work by Hilary Pope, Veronica Steffen,  Emmaline Fleener, Taylor Chism, and Madelyn Lucille Witruk. 

Let’s start out in Champaign at the Springer Cultural Center,

[gallery common_ground_at_springer]


Springer is a hub for artists of various levels of experience who are learning, teaching, and exhibiting.  And for this it is very dear to my heart. And as I’ve written before, there is much value in the location of art in public spaces, though the enterprise does present its own challenges. The long corridor provides lots of wall space and perhaps allows or encourages artists to expand rather than edit their shows, particularly when there are only two artists exhibiting. 

I was excited to see another side of Beth Darling’s work beyond the bright and bold landsapes she is best known for.  Exhibited here are some of her more whimsical and surrealist works.  A dog that stands as a proportional equal to a conch shell.  A sock monkey and doll tea party. These works fire up the childlike imagination in all of us. They make us ask “what if?” They make us curious.  Which is what art should do. 

Barber’s work bears a similar whimsy.  The larger pieces bring color and play into the formal setting of Springer’s formidible front entry.  A part of me wanted to see these pieces in a garden setting. 

Now on to Urbana.  First stop, the City Building

[gallery lino_ink_artist_corridor]

During my recent visit with lino artist extraordinaire Lisa Kesler she shared her excitement about working with the art students at UHS.  And now we know why. The results are impressive. The styles and subjects are as varied as the students themselves.  I’ve shared detail shots of a few of my favorites. I was particularly taken by the print made on newspaper.  This sophisticated layering adds contrast and meaning to the overall composition.  

My photos do not do this exhibit justice.  And as another public space, the City Building has its challenges as a exhibition space. But the value of this work living in a place where decisions are made about support for the arts significantly outweighs any issues of lighting or installation. Kesler’s artist-in-residence project is a perfect example of the magic that is made when the creative imaginations of young artists are sparked and stoked by the inspiration, experitise, and mentorship of working artists. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet these young artists yourself when they present their artist panel on August 15th from noon to 1 p.m. at the Urbana Free Library. 

 Last stop.  Analog.

While still somewhat of a raw space, Analog’s art gallery/performance space offers something closer to a traditional gallery space.  Opening night paired art, music, and wine—a perfect combination as far as I’m concerned.  Artist Madelyn Witruk assembled an impressive and diverse group of artists for this show. Several of the artists (Emmaline Flessner, Hilary Pope, and Witruk herself) live in both the graphic design and fine art worlds and this adds an interesting layer of context to their work that moves in and out of the viewing experience like the subtle notes you taste in a good glass of wine.  

Witruk’s series of acrylic paintings (seen in part in the cover image above) is called “Vessels.” Witruck explained that “they depict female form, geometric flowers and bright eye-catching colors.” When I asked her about her inspiration for the curation of this group show, she shared that her “first thought was honestly to bring in artwork that I personally know I love. Something that ties all of the work together is how all of the artists use color in different and interesting ways.”  This marks Witruk’s first time out as curator and she is “so happy with how everything turned out.” And she should be.

I was especially happy to learn that Analog is offering a second or rather, “closing night” reception on Saturday, June 22nd.  So if you haven’t seen this space or this work,  you’ll get another chance this weekend.  You may even get to meet the artists. 


[gallery june_show_at_analog]


So there you have it.  I chose my own adventure and the experience was suprising, inspiring, and definitely worth the time and effort.  Your turn now.  Where are you headed to get your creative inspo? 

Artist of the Corridor Exhibition | Linoleum + Ink
City of Urbana Building
June through August
400 S Vine St, Urbana,

Analog Gallery: June Show
June 7th through June 22nd
129 Race St, Urbana

Common Ground:  Work by Beth Darling and Lisa Marie Barber
Through July 6th
Springer Cultural Center
301 N Randolph St, Champaign

All photos by Debra Domal


Arts Editor

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