Frank's Weekend Faves, June 17, 2018

Frank's Weekend Faves, June 17, 2018

OK, break's over! Time to get back to work bringing you the best — or at least my favorites — among all that the local arts & entertainment scene has to offer. And picking up where I left off two weeks ago, my open invitation for visually artistic faves was answered within five minutes of my return to work this past week with a call from Ruthie Counter at Parkland College in Champaign. What's up there? Why ... birds, of course.

A whole flock of them, in fact — 505, to be precise, representing Parkland's district number within the community college system — swooping overhead in a seemingly windblown formation across the lobby of the Parkland College Student Union in Champaign — all courtesy of the ingenuity and perseverance of Champaign artist Ann Coddington.

As Counter informed me, this newly hatched art installation actually took three years to take wing, and that was after the yearlong process of designing and preparing the work, as well as crafting the black ceramic-glazed figures, each one different from the others, to be suspended from the lobby's vaulted ceiling. Following what Coddington called "a really intense production schedule," "In Flight" was originally scheduled to fly in the summer of 2015, after the student union's construction was complete.

But that's when Illinois legislators froze the state budget, including funds earmarked for the project under the Art in Architecture program.

"I was three weeks ahead of installing the work when they froze the budget," Coddington said. "The piece was finished and ready to go when it was put on hold, and the 27 boxes had to be stored in my mother's basement!"

When the state finally released the funds last November, she still had to wait until school was out for the summer to finish the project. Installation — which lasted nine days and required Coddington and her crew of five assistants "to lay a floor, utilize a scissor lift, have special insurance" — finally got off the ground over Memorial Day weekend and is now open and available for viewing to anyone passing through the Parkland Student Union lobby. Just look up.

Although each bird in "Taking Flight" is unique, the flock visually moves as a collective, from east to west, across the lobby's sky. Coddington, an Eastern Illinois University drawing and design professor who also taught design classes at Parkland for 10 years, calls her design choice an apt metaphor for Parkland's educational experience.

"The students who have come to Parkland College and have formed relationships go off on their own and are individuals again, but while they are at Parkland, they are part of this really special group," said Coddington. "I loved my time at Parkland, and many of my old friends still work in the Art Department, so I feel honored to have a piece there. I wanted to create a unique piece for this special place."

Theater for a good cause has always been a fave of mine, and the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company is presenting another such an opportunity to feel good about being entertained this Friday at the Urbana Civic Center. Consider this your invitation to "The Irish Wake."

This murder-mystery fundraiser for the Community Center for the Arts' scholarship fund is being presented from 7 to 10 p.m. by actors from CUTC while the audience enjoys a four-course dinner prepared and served by Sylvia's Irish Inn — and solves the evening's "murder," of course. C4A violinist and Irish fiddle specialist Amanda Ramey will also perform, and there will be a cash bar. Tickets are $75 per person, and advance purchase is required — available online at or call Sylvia's Irish Inn at 217-384-4800.

Hey, did you catch area art gallery operator, monarch butterfly champion, documentary filmmaker, author, dog photographer and former News-Gazette reporter Kirby Pringle looking cool in his trademark Hawaiian shirt and shorts while showing TV host Matt Metcalf around The Vault Art Gallery in Tuscola on WCIA's "CI Living" last week?

If not, you can play catch-up online at Or you can check out Mr. Pringle's snazzy tropical attire for yourself, along with his 25,000-square-foot gallery full of locally produced art at 100 N. Main St. in downtown Tuscola. And support an East Central Illinois artist or two in the process.

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