As we enter another month of life during quarantine, we continue to seek out new ways to fill our time and feed our brains. We crave something that will provide connection, inspiration, distraction, and maybe even hope. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all that we’ve lost. But as I look around the landscape of our now virtual arts community, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for the resiliency of local performing and visual artists who not only continue doing what they do, but for how nimbly they have transitioned from live to virtual delivery. They continue to be there for us when we need them most.
Below you’ll find a list of virtual galleries, artist talks, and performances to engage your senses. As the weather improves, feel free to take them outside and enjoy them in the fresh air. And though we’re still social distancing, you might just feel closer to the artists who help make this place so special.
Double Take Take 2
40 North’s Double Take show at the 40 Point One gallery opened shortly before the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. And while I got chance to see the opening night photos on line, and to talk with Gregory Stallmeyer about his Exquisite Corpse-style collaboration with Carol Farnum, I never actually got to see the show in person.
Exquisite Corpse is essentially a conversation between two artists. The results are always fascinating. They provide new contexts and spark new connections between seemingly different styles of work. These collaborations require trust and openness. The work in Double Take is alchemical and it speaks loudly to the love and respect amongst our local artists.
Well, the good news is that thanks to the always awesome Kelly White, 40 North is launching series of virtual artist talks with the Double Take duos. First up is White Zoom interview with EKAH and Kim Caisse, which is now available on on YouTube. Stay turned to the 40 North Facebook page for news on upcoming talks and dive deep into the Double Take collaboration process.
Art Remastered from Home
Speaking of collaborations, I have a weak spot for artists who aren’t afraid to find inspiration outside of their own discpline. Art Remastered, a yearly event held at Krannert Art Museum, invites musicians to create new work inspired by or in conversation with a work from the KAM collection. With KAM now closed, the event organizers quickly found a way to honor the spirit of the event while shifting to a virtual delivery system. After reaching out to last year’s performers, arrangements were made to revisit these works with live streaming from home. One performance will be released at 11 a.m. each Thursday through May 28th on KAM’s social media channels. The first video features ZZo, performing a composition inspired by Nancy Hild’s charcoal drawing “It’s Getting Too Crowded in Here,” from the KAM collection. Find out more about both work or watch the performance here. Up next is a performance by Cole Bridges on May 7th. Stay tuned to KAM’s Art Remastered at Home Facebook page for more details about the series.
Illinois Theatre Showcase
Recently, theatre writer Jarrod reviewed the Illinois Theatre Department’s Class of 2020 BFA showcase. While he and I agree that digital may not be our favorite way to experience (live) theatre, this showcase did not disappoint. Jarrod observed that “all of the performances were a delight to watch. With some it was clear they were meant for stage or a live performance, not for camera, but that never distracted from the performances.”… “Sketches, monologues, musical performances, [and] artistic shorts were all pieced together into an anthology of engaging stories. Participants of the showcase became filmmakers. Each piece is a micro-film.” ICYM the April 23rd “opening night,” there’s still plenty of time to check it out online.
The (VIrtual) Eric Show
As with Double Take, COVID-19 closed the Illini Union before I was able to see The Eric Show. This annual celebration of student art was created by Dale and Peg Steffensen in honor of Dale’s son Eric, who was an aspiring artist at Urbana High School before his death in 1970. And to show that even a pandemic couldn’t stop their commitment to Eric and to this year’s student artists, the organizers took the exhibit online. In some ways, there is something to be gained from the ability to return to and revisit this work. Scanning it again as I prepared for this article I was struck by the number of portraits. This seems like the perfect time to linger over these faces and imagine their stories, their struggles, their dreams. We need to remain connected. And we need to honor each other’s differences and build on our common ground. And there’s nothing like art for that. Visit the gallery here.
Illinois Art & Design BFA and MFA Student Shows
Just like the Illinois Theatre BFA students, the BFA and MFA students at Illinois Art + Design have had to move their IRL exhibitions online. However, knowing the creativity and technical chops of both the FAA faculty and students, I am sure these virtual experiences will be extraordinary. We can expect them to go live mid-May. Stay tuned to the arts section (or the KAM Facebook page) for more information.