Art Beat: There's a lot to be thankful for in C-U

Art Beat: There's a lot to be thankful for in C-U

It's the day before Thanksgiving as I write this. So the obligatory list of things for which I am grateful might be in order.

No. 1: Both of my parents, Don and Eleanor, are alive and living at my childhood home. I can go home again, and I often do.

No. 2: My job as an arts writer for this newspaper and my 37-year career in journalism. It's shown me all sides of humanity, from good to bad. Mostly good.

No. 3: Champaign-Urbana's vibrant, supportive and creative arts community, which may be a well-kept secret to the rest of the world (and to some people who live here) but has an amazing depth and breadth.

No. 4: I can bicycle or walk to The Iron Post, where, for a few bucks, I hear world-class jazz and other music in an intimate setting, where almost everybody knows my name.

No. 5: Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, one of the best performing arts centers in the world, with some of the best acoustics in the world, particularly in Foellinger Great Hall. And it's home to the biennial Ellnora, one of the best guitar festivals in the world.

No. 6: Krannert Art Museum. As Mike Ross has done at Krannert Center, museum director Kathleen Harleman, who won an ACE Award this year for advocacy from the local arts council, has made the museum a vibrant and welcoming venue to students and community members as well.

No. 7: Roger Ebert's Film Festival and Roger Ebert himself. Though he died in April, he lives on through his work and his love for film. The festival has brought many notable industry types to town and increased our knowledge of film and film history.

No. 8: The recently renovated Virginia Theatre, home to the annual Ebertfest and many other events. What a gem!

No. 9: The many arts and music lovers in these twin cities who on a volunteer basis bring us events like the C-U Folk & Roots Festival, the Urbana Hootenanny and the Boneyard Arts Festival. Also, the Public Art League, again a group of volunteers that has brought in a relatively short time 41 public art sculptures to C-U. And the volunteers who created and serve on the board of the Art Theater Co-op, the first and so far only art movie house cooperative in the country.

No. 10: The University of Illinois College of Fine and Applied Arts. It has many top-notch faculty members who perform here and raise the standards for the rest of the community.

If in Texas

If you happen to be in Texas over the holidays, you might want to check out artist Rosalyn Schwartz's show at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. It's there through Jan. 19.

San Antonio Express-News arts writer Steven Bennett recently wrote about her multimedia show of oil paintings, digital prints, collages and decorative vases purchased on eBay.

Schwartz, who lives in Urbana and took early retirement a few years ago from the UI School of Art + Design, considers the entire installation, called "A Brief History of Seduction," an artwork.

In it she addresses the question, "What is Beauty?"

"Schwartz is exploring important, age-old issues ... and making beautiful, confrontational, humorous work in the process," Bennett wrote.

To see his full article, go to

Jack Baker, RIP

C-U has in recent months has lost at least two distinguished artists/arts patrons: Robert "Bob" Smith and now Jack S. Baker.

Mr. Baker, 93, died at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 24 at Carle Foundation Hospital. He was an architect with a private practice and a faculty member at the UI who received many awards from the university and in his field, among them International Man of the Year in 1991-92 from the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England.

Another doc

The filmmakers working on a documentary about Roger Ebert, based on his memoir "Life Itself," aren't the only ones seeking funding through online sources for docs with local connections.

John Murray of the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in Chicago seeks $25,000, also through Indiegogo, for his documentary, "A Farmer's Road: Changing the American Food System One Meal at a Time."

It will be about Prairie Fruits Farm in rural Champaign; it produces French-style goat and sheep cheeses and organic fruits and vegetables and hosts amazing farm dinners in slow food movement style.

Murray went to one of the dinners in August 2010 and since then has been working on the documentary, which will tell the story of Prairie Fruits owners Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell, "two academics who traded textbook and research theory for boots on the ground reality," Murray wrote at his Indiegogo site.

For more of Murray's description of his doc-in-progress, go to He also has a Facebook page on the project, at

Jarrell told me Murray, a dean at Flashpoint, has shot many hours of video footage and spoken with Jarrell and Cooperband — who are married — many times.

"Now he's trying to raise enough money to get a really professional editing job done, well and quickly," Jarrell said.

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or Her blog is at

Topics (4):Art, Film, Music, Theater

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