Anniversary tour of Michigan was a pleasant adventure

Our 40th anniversary celebration was an adventure trip. As our present to ourselves, Linda and I decided to explore Michigan on our way to a wedding.

Getting Personal: Champaign florist Rick Orr

Each week, we will submit a local personality to a Q&A grilling. Today, a chat with Champaign florist Rick Orr.

Studio Visit: Jessie Knox, 56, of Urbana

Q: When did you start making art?

A: I can't remember when I didn't do it. In grade school I would do all the bulletin boards and backdrops for the student plays. I did medical illustrations for science classes. I did school emblems. During Black History Month, I'd do drawings of Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and other historical figures.

Allerton Music Barn Festival starting to gain lofty status

MONTICELLO – A rarely produced tango opera, chamber music, jazz and American music, plus a brass band, will be on tap at the third annual Allerton Music Barn Festival over the Labor Day weekend.

The festival runs from Sept. 3 through 7, lasting one day longer than last year. Tickets are on sale now.

Artist's reception set for Thursday at Parkland gallery

CHAMPAIGN – The artist's reception for "Michael Hoag: Layered Images" at the Parkland Art Gallery will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday , with a gallery talk by the artist at 7 p.m. and music by Jordan Kaye in the gallery lounge.

The gallery earlier reported an incorrect date for the reception.

Parkland to display Illinois artist's abstract portraits

CHAMPAIGN – The Parkland Art Gallery will exhibit abstract portraits by Illinois artist Michael Hoag beginning Monday.

The reception will be from 6 to 8 p.m. July 8, featuring a gallery talk with Hoag and music by Jordan Kaye. The exhibition will remain on display through Aug. 11. Both it and the reception are free and open to the public.

Studio Visit: Alexei 'Lyosha' Svinarski, 50, Urbana

Q: How long have you lived in Urbana?

A: Twenty years. We moved in 1989 from St. Petersburg, Russia, and I graduated from medical school a year and a half prior. My child was 3 years old, and we decided to just leave because of the politics, the conditions.

Recent UI graduate accused of stealing signs last weekend

URBANA – University of Illinois police have arrested a recent UI graduate for the theft of two signs that were part of a Native American art project on the UI campus.

Mark Nepermann, 21, a May graduate in fine and applied arts from Batavia, was arraigned Thursday on a single count of misdemeanor theft alleging he stole signs valued at less than $300 from the UI and Edgar Heap of Birds on Saturday.

Royal author's book speaks to children of all ages

ROYAL – Like the old saying goes, Royal resident and author Kimberly Rogers-Busboom would tell you not to judge her children's book, "My Secret Best Friend" by its watercolor-illustrated cover.

While the book targets readers kindergarten through fourth grade, Rogers-Busboom said its message is for children of all ages.

Grand ol' oprys: Country music shines at Bement, Bellflower venues

The steel guitar warbled a gentle vibrato as traveling country singer Jerry Bennett brought his lips to his cordless microphone.

"Go rest high ... on that mountain," crooned Bement Country Opry's featured performer that evening. He looked like a lumberjack in his plaid shirt, aside from his soft smile. Susan Williams, a principal for the Vermilion Association for Special Education, who was the pinch-hitting guitar player, raised her subdued face to shine in a spotlight as she bounced a treble harmony on the line. She closed her eyes as Bennett crescendoed.