Smile Politely

Get your arts on at these fall fests and fairs

Fall is my favorite time of year. Though it marks the end of summer, it doesn’t mean the fun is over, especially when it comes to the arts. And while I love me an apple cider anything, these fairs and fests offer ways to treat your mind and spirit, as well as your tastebuds.  There is another throughline connecting them. Pride. Black and African pride. LGBTQIA+ pride. And local art and artisan pride. That means you’ll see and hear artists and makers showing you the truest and best selves. And if that’s not worth celebrating, I don’t know what is. 

Champaign-Urbana Black and African Arts Festival

Black male and female dancers in white t-shirts and black pants dance inside Lincoln Square Mall.

Photo from the Champaign-Urbana Black and African Arts Festival Facebook page.

With a kick off musical performance by The Soul Rebels at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Friday, September 9th, Saturday’s all-day event is filled with music, dance, and plenty of opportunities to support Black-owned businesses. My personal list of things to check out include the awesome combo of DJ Kamau (Dance Music Therapy) and artist Keith Jacobs from noon to 1 p.m., the Urbana High School Royal Diamonds Dance and Step Team, from 1 to 2 p.m., followed by the Royal Dystruxion Dance Troupe at 2 p.m. and the Capoiera Angola Group from 2:30 to 3 p.m. Stick around to dance it out with DJ Silkee until 5 p.m.

Champaign-Urbana Black and African Arts Festival
September 10th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lincoln Square Mall
300 South Broadway,

West Side Park Art Festival

A view of West Side Park in Champaign featuring an arch-shaped silver sculpture, flower beds and trees.

Photo from the Champaign Park District website.

Who said outdoor arts festivals should be over in August. Certainly not me. You definitely won’t want to miss this brand new outdoor arts festival. This 40 North and Champaign Park District collab offers another chance to meet and support local artists and makers. Plus the location offers lots of place to chill with friends and show off your newly purchased treasures, and then head to your favorite Downtown Champaign spot for food and beverages. Celebrate the harvest season by reaping the bounty our C-U artists and makers have sown. Stay tuned for a photo recap in the arts section.

West Side Park Arts Festival
September 17th,10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
West Side Park
Downtown Champaign

You Belong Here

A wide shot of the front of the Anita Purves Nature Center in Urbana. A low tan building with green roof and details, sitting on a grass lawn with trees in the background.

Photo from the Urbana Park District website.

While this year’s Pride Parade doesn’t happen until October 1, there are so many opportunities to experience LGBTQIA+ pride at the end of this month. There’s a screening of Paris is Burning, Queeraoke, and, of course, Drag. But the visual arts cheerleader in me is all about the two gallery openings that have been included in this year’s multi-day programming. Up first is the aptly named You Belong Here, which will showcase art created by LGBTQIA+ youth. Our queer and trans young people need our support, now more than ever. Art is a powerful, and sometimes scary, way to assert your true self and share it with others. So this time I’m asking you to not just be an arts advocate. I’m also asking you to be an ally.  The location perfectly underscores the notion of interconnectedness and celebrates the existence of all colors of natural beauty. Even if you can’t attend the opening reception, do check out the exhibit and help spread the word. 

You Belong Here
Opening reception
September 26th, 4 to 6 p.m.
Anita Purves Nature Center
1505 N Broadway,
M-F 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sa 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Closed Sunday

Resist Erasure

Inside the deceptively small McKinley Foundations Artists' Alley showing framed paintings and signs against the white walls.

Photo from the McKinley Foundation website.

The McKinley Foundation’s Artist Alley has an impact far greater than the size of its physical space. With a continued commitment to social justice, it boasts a history of centering LGBTQIA+ visual storytelling. Resist Erasure, which will feature art by adult LGBTQIA+ artists, is both an exhibition title and a directive. In many ways, it could serve as the theme for so many of these events. The fact that there are two unique art exhibitions opening during Pride season fills my heart and soul. While there is certainly value to seeing the work of local LGBTQIA+ artists side by side with straight and cis artists, there is something special about having queer and trans artists taking up space, sharing their best selves, and together, presenting a combined and co-existing range of identities and artistic styles.

Resist Erasure
September 29th, 4 to 7:30 p.m.
McKinley Foundation’s Artist Alley
Presby Hall 
405 E John,
M-Su 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

If you’ve been wondering “what about Made Fest?” We’ll be spotlighting it, and all the Pygmalion 2022 arts offerings next week. 

Arts Editor

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