Last Friday evening was a whirlwind for me, thanks to the Boneyard Arts Festival.
I started my festive journey early evening, stopping first at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to check out repurposed items being sold in a silent auction. One of the top bid draws: a rocking chair painted expertly to resemble the American flag.
Then on to BeeMi, a fly-by-night gallery inside an old warehouse north of the Post Office on Neil Street. Jeff Mellander owns the brick building; he’s rehabbing and calling it the Blue Line Station. The interior still has that raw look that’s just perfect for art shows; the Artists Against AIDS show/sale will be there later this month.
There I saw an old friend, Dave Nolan of Danville, who was showing his dream-like black-and-white photographs, and met Jane DeLuce, CEO of the Champaign County Convention & Visitors Bureau. She introduced me to Jan Kostner, deputy director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.
Jan took the train down here from Chicago to spend two days visiting local attractions. She at one point wondered out loud about the Boneyard Arts Festival and how it worked; Jane told her it’s like a progressive event, where you visit one venue after another.
From there I headed to the the next venue on my list: the open artist studios on the fourth and fifth floors of the Lincoln Building.
But first I stopped in at the first floor of of the building at Main and Walnut to take in the Campaign for Better Health Care show. There Robin Kearton was playing fiddle and Tom Faux, the accordion, and a few artists were showing their work.
From there to the Lincoln, where I visited every open studio, grazed on free food and chatted with artists, among them RJ Karlstrom, who has moved into a larger, nicer studio and was showing some recent work. It’s abstract: think Jackson Pollack if he made elongated marks, rather than splashes of paint.
Visitors seemed impressed with Judy Dethmers’ portraits — large-scale, up-close, every-pore-showing depictions on Mylar of mostly older folks and our David "The Prairie Monk" Monk.
From the Lincoln I sauntered over to Figure One, the art space of the UI School of Art + Design, on Walnut Streetl There they are showing Internet-related work by UI seniors, all female. One piece was text-heavy, but I read every word. After that I went next door to Cakes on Walnut to check out the typography posters of letters, punctuation and other symbols, handmade by members of the C-U Design Organization, which has brought Pecha Kucha to this area.
From there I visited the Jane Addams Book Shop, where Andrew Weiss, a mentor in the One-to-One Mentoring program, and Brian Ruffner, the student hes mentored for almost three years, showed the drawings the worked on together when they meet once a week through One-to-One. Brian also showed drawings of firefighters that he has created for years.
Then I drove back to Urbana to take my dog, Bix, home. On my way back to Champaign I stopped at the Art Coop inside Lincoln Square Village for the opening of "The Drawn Image," a show curated by Viki Ford which features drawings by some of the best women artists in this area: Jodi Birdwell, Lisa Costello, Ford, Ann Coddington Rast, Julie Birdwell and Joan Stolz.
Being a dog lover, I loved Stolz’s gem-like paintings of dogs frolicking on a beach on overcast days and how she captured their joy. I was pleased to see that Jodi Birdwell, who teaches art at Lake Land College, continues to move her art in new directions. And I loved Rast’s large triptych of small birds in flight. Just birds. No clouds. No sky.
Then I drove back to downtown Champaign to meet my friend Ben Galewsky. We walked down Taylor Street and saw UI students making avant-garde music and dance, improv-style, in the alley. Watching were UI dance professor Kirstie Simson, who was pleased: She said the student performers had taken an interdisciplinary arts course that she co-taught last semester and had come up with the Boneyard performance on their own.
Ben and I then ambled over to the New Art Film Festival, on our way seeing a crowd watching break dancers in front of Jim Gould Restaurant. In the Art Theater we walked into the middle of the screening of the new Dark Maze Studios’ videogame comedy "Press Start 2 Continue," which tells the story of an "ultraviolent ninja forced to team up with a bubbly, positive-thinking princess to save his friends — and
the world from a resurrected evil sorcerer."
The film festival drew a pretty good crowd, especially compared to last year. Co-organizer Jason Pankoke looked happy. Everyone seemed to enjoy the movie; I heard laughter throughout.
I was especially impressed with Jenny Nelson as Princess Xanna. She looks like she was born to act. Our video-game writer, Joel Leizer, aptly described her in "Press Start 2": "Nelson practically bounces her way through the movie, stealing every scene she’s in with a believable blend of innocence and mischievous bravado."
Even though I’m not into video games, I enjoyed watching the movie till it ended. After that Ben and I went to The Iron Post to hear Condition Blue, a group of mainly local jazz musicians playing hard bop from the Blue Note recordings of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. My favorite jazz genre.