Frank's Weekend Faves, June 24, 2018

Frank's Weekend Faves, June 24, 2018

I hadn't yet started writing this column a year ago when Ilene Silverman first opened The Gilbert Gallery in downtown Urbana. But as she prepares to celebrate her art gallery's first anniversary next week, you can bet I'm not going to miss that. Nor should you.

Why? Because The Gilbert is a gorgeous, locally owned uptown venue for viewing area artists' work — and it's filled with eye-pleasing, smile-inducing original art. Housed on the second floor of a late-1800s-style Victorian building at 102 W. Main St., the gallery's interior features high ceilings, oak trims, a pair of 12-foot doors and an ornamental column that had me craning my neck to take it all in scarcely two steps in the door — not to mention a visual feast of creativity from 21 artists, most of whom live in the community doing other things for a living.

Among those are three metal artists whose work is being spotlighted in The Gilbert's "Heavy Metal" show, which opens Friday with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. at the gallery and will run throughout July. Local music duo JaM (Julia Welle and Matthew Wilkie) will also be performing from 7 to 9 p.m.

What also makes The Gilbert special, or any gallery for that matter, is its owner. A retired Centennial High School art teacher, Silverman opened her gallery on July 6, 2017, in the former law office of her late husband, whom she admits had little interest in preserving the building's impressive architectural design. But it didn't take Ilene more than a couple of years of retirement to come up with a better use for the space, and it is definitely being used to its full visual potential now as Silverman has filled it with an eye-pleasing array of creations in a variety of media, doubled the number of artists on display in her first year and even added a working elevator for those who need it.

As strikingly appealing as the visuals, it might just be the intimacy of The Gilbert that sets it apart. As you browse through the exhibits, constantly finding reason to step up close for a better look, your hostess proudly confides background information on the artists whose creations you're viewing like she was showing off the artwork of friends and family — and indeed, as often as not, the artists represented there are, in fact, personal friends of hers, and a couple are the parents of students she once taught. But nearly all do something else besides art for their day job. Greg Stallmeyer, whose work is part of the "Heavy Metal" show, is an autobody instructor at Parkland College.

Retired archaeologist Sarah Wisseman's vivid watercolors are eye-poppingly vibrant, while retired engineer Wesley Seitz's multi-drawered bandsaw boxes, all cut from the same borer-downed ash tree, are an absolute marvel. And possibly my favorite works currently on display are the cleverly whimsical silkscreen prints of Silverman's pal and fellow art teacher Jillian Nickell and the equally clever series of environmentally themed prints by Eric Benson, head of graphic design at the UI.

Everything you see is for sale for under $500, with most items priced between $25 and $200, as SIlverman says that was one of her primary goals in operating The Gilbert — to offer affordable, original art by and for local folks.

Normal gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit The Gilbert's website at or phone 217-367-2400.

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Topics (2):Art, People