April Brings Shower of Local Arts

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April is a busy time for artists and art enthusiasts in Champaign and Urbana. The Octopus-sponsored Art Walk will take place the weekend of April 19 and 20. This is an opportunity for local artists, galleries, and businesses to be spotlighted, as community members and fellow artists meander from one gallery to another sampling all kinds of art from painting to sculpture to performance. This year’s second annual Art Walk will be held in various venues around Champaign and Urbana, including the Krannert Museum on the University of Illinois campus.
Artists Against Aids will also host a local show and benefit on April 26 and 27. Since the foregoing events will no doubt be amply covered by the Octopus, we present here a brief encapsulation of two other demonstrations of community artistic talent that will likewise be taking place in April.
At the Independent Media Center, 218 W. Main Street in downtown Urbana, local artist Sandra Ahten will host a one-woman mixed media display entitled “I Want to Change the World -But I Can’t Get Out of The House”. Ahten displays paintings, drawings, crocheted sculpture, and prints, as well as handmade dolls, books and masks that in some way relate to her own ongoing personal dilemma suggested by the title of the show. The chaotic assemblage of artwork is characteristic, as Ahten expresses it, “of the chaos experienced as one tries to juggle a life filled with such things as social justice activism, self-help and introspection, and the simultaneous burden and glory of femininity and domesticity.”
Ahten’s show dates run from April 19 through May 12 during regular IMC hours: weekdays from 4 to 9 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 pm. The official opening of the show will be on Friday April 19 from 4 to 8 pm and Saturday April 20 from noon to 4 pm. On Friday April 19 at 7:30 pm there will be a short talk by the artist, followed by a facilitated discussion, on the subject of “How to Change the World and Still Take Care of Yourself”.
Yet another show in April, entitled “Eleutheria”, promises to be eclectic and profound. It all began with an ad in the Octopus soliciting artists to participate in a small show. Four people answered the ad. Those four artists knew a few more, and soon a group of approximately fourteen local artists had come together to plan a display of their various works. Eleutheria will open on the weekend of April 19 and 20 in downtown Champaign, and will close on the following weekend.
“Eleutheria”, the word, is the name of an island in the Caribbean reputed to be a utopian paradise. The artists agreed that this name characterizes their various pieces of art as well as the inspiration behind them. Because the show is non-juried, the works shown in Eleutheria will represent the passions and priorities of each artist. When asked whether they had an overall concept for the show, these artists indicated that while they had considered and rejected a more explicit theme or set of preconceived criteria, their collaborative effort could be best be described simply as inclusive and diverse.
This spirit will surely be reflected in the variety of works and media they have chosen to display at the show. Sitting down for a cup of coffee with five artists, I learned within two minutes about several widely different styles and projects. On display at Eleutheria will be a set of color photographs by co-organizer Andrew Dolph exploring urban sprawl and rural environmental issues like lake toxicity. Another artist uses contemporary politics as his inspiration, and yet another does abstract digital art. Working to evoke visceral responses primarily to issues of the body, Lori Caterini -another dedicated organizer of Eleutheria -creates temporary sculpture using materials such as ice, dry ice, water condensation, and ash. Her sculpture for this show will progressively melt, denoting the mutability and ephemeral quality of the human condition.
Finding an appropriate space to display wall hangings, floor sculptures, pedestal art, and perhaps glass cases took finesse, finance, and unrecompensed elbow grease for the organizers of Eleutheria. The old Lox, Stock, and Bagel building was offered to them in exchange for some cleaning and moving. Before even thinking of heat and lighting, the artists spent many exhausting hours sweeping and mopping, while envisioning a revitalized landscape for their work. The run-down brick, boarded windows, and dusty corners of two large sunlit rooms will be transformed as inspired art moves in. The tediousness of planning, coordinating, and organizing Eleutheria, while maintaining a vision of “utopia”, makes this small committed group quite an impressive bunch.
The gallery hours for Eleutheria will be 4-10 pm Friday April 19 and 12-6 pm Saturday April 20, as well as 6-10 pm Friday April 26 and 5-10 pm Saturday April 27. The gallery is located at 120 North Neil Street in downtown Champaign

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