During Roger Ebert’s Film Festival I skipped "Apocalypse Now Redux" to visit the annual Artists Against Aids show and sale, in a new location this year.
The huge event, the largest art exhibition/sale in this area, had lots of room to spread out on the second floor of M2, the new office-condo building in downtown Champaign.
Unlike previous shows, this one gave people as well as the art plenty of elbow room. One of my friends who goes every year described it as "fluid."
I thought the art looked great but people were not purchasing as much as they have in recent years.
Trent Shepard, who helps out with the show, said sales amounted to around $45,000, compared to $52,000 last year and $72,000 the year before.
"We had pretty good crowds, but they weren’t buying as much," he said.
After expenses and paying the artists half of the proceeds from art sold, the Greater Community AIDS Project, better known as GCAP, will receive about $23,000 from Artists Against AIDS, its primary fund-raiser.
Shepard attributed the lackluster sales this year to several factors, among them the economy and the location of the show. Previous shows were in street-level spaces.
"Some people said they had a hard time finding where we were," he said.
And one artist who was a top seller in past shows didn’t donate this year; a fan of her work once bought at an AAA sale an $8,000 piece, boosting the amount of sales that year.
The second floor of M2 is a a groovy space with an urban vibe because it’s raw, or unfinished. Shepard called it a good place for AAA and said organizers were able to control its climate, but had to buy lots of conduits for lights, increasing their expenses.
The M2 space has been the site for other events, among them the 40 North 88 West "Fire and Ice" gala, with great lighting and decorations by Sean Murphy and Taya Ross; a wedding; and the current exhibition for the class projects of University of Illinois BFA candidates in photography. You can see that by appointment.
Altogether the second floor has 25,000 square feet dedicated to office space. Someone is now in negotiations to lease the north half, but M2 developers would like to maintain the other half as a community space, said Cody Sokolski of 1 Main Developers, which developed and owns M2.
"We’re going to try to hold the space as long as we can," he said. "It’s nice because it’s big enough to not have to cram stuff on top of other stuff."
If all of the second-floor space were rented, community events could be moved to another floor of M2, Sokolski said. But 1 Main Developers has recently received more calls expressing interest in leasing space in M2, he said. One was from an advertising group.
Cody said he would like to see more arts-related tenants.
One is Shatterglass Studio, an award-winning new media development and film production company which produced the short "Sugar," which has been in a slew of film festivals and won awards at some.