Brilliant Stories

Art is Alive Again

June 17, 2021

During the past 15 months, we spent countless hours in our homes, staring at our walls and our shelves, re-evaluating our choices. Meanwhile, our local artists struggled to connect with audiences and lost income with festivals and shows deemed unsafe. While there were virtual options during the pandemic, it’s not the same when you don’t have the opportunity to connect with local artists, hear their stories, and share in their inspiration.


After this long, challenging year, we’re excited to once again celebrate our local arts scene during the Boneyard Arts Festival, hosted by 40 North, the Champaign County Arts Council. This annual event, typically held over the University of Illinois Mom’s Weekend in April, was rescheduled for June to allow time for safety efforts and vaccinations to be widespread. We couldn’t be happier that this popular arts & culture festival is kicking off a return of events and festivals to the greater Champaign County area at a time when our local artists and venues need it most.


While this year’s event may be smaller in scale (50+ venues vs. the average 100+), its grand in ambition and scope, recognizing the challenges of this past year and urging us to re-engage with the arts, which brought us so much comfort during the pandemic.


With a festival of this scope, the challenge is determining how to maximize three days of non-stop art. We scoped out the 50+ listings to help you make your weekend plan. A few things to note: several venues have specific hours, or workshops, talks, and demonstrations, so make your plans around those times. You can also use this unofficial map, created by local artist, EKAH, to help you navigate!


Let’s start in downtown Champaign. One of the best ways to explore the Boneyard Arts Festival is by district, where clusters of venues and artists can be found. In downtown Champaign, you’ll find eleven venues, many holding multiple artists. Catch artwork from the Boneyard Signature Artists, Gregory Stallmeyer, in the windows of the former Skins n Tins. Along Market St., you’ll have a lot to explore with art and doodles from Ralph Roether and Madison Ciaccio at Pour Brothers, where you can also grab a beer and listen to live music. Across the street at Seven Saints, find artwork from Andrea Rudisill, at WEFT Community Radio work from four artists, and then explore the newest downtown Champaign business, The Recreation Club, with a multimedia event, flash tattoos, jewelry and more. While downtown, pop into Neil St. Blues, featuring Black Toy Joy—3D action figures by Pancho Moore. Bonus: Neil St. Blues is one of the many restaurants participating in the 217 Black Restaurant Weekend. Also not to be missed, a collective of five artists in the old Merry Ann’s Diner, including tarot readings! Other stops: Big Grove Tavern, Behemoth Durable Goods, PACA Architectural Salvage Warehouse, Quality Beer, Springer Cultural Center, and The Blind Pig Company.


Heading to the east side of Wright Street, downtown Urbana has a lot to offer during the weekend. As part of Juneteenth, you can celebrate at the Urbana Free Library with STARGAZERS, an exhibition of poetry and graphic illustration by artists Shaya Robinson and Stacey Robinson. Immediately following, bring the kids for a Youth Chalk-a-thon with Joyful Bubbles on site. At the Boneyard Creek Crossing, you can catch live painting by Cody Shinker, with Dance Music Therapy cranking out some tunes, and Joyful Bubbles giving us a reason to smile.


Throughout the walkable downtown Urbana business district, you’ll find a little something around every corner. Two of the most vibrant galleries in our community, Cinema Gallery and Gilbert Gallery, collectively represent over 80 artists whose work will be available for purchase. AP Art students from Urbana High School took inspiration from the pandemic to showcase REMOTE WORK at the Independent Media Center, which will also host artist Freddy West, and an Art, Science & Democracy Reception. The evening hours will be filled with a light and sound installation at the vibrant Sipyard, and live music at The Rose Bowl Tavern. Other must stops: 25 O’Clock Brewery, Analog Wine Library, Bohemia, Courier Café, CU Adventures, Parasol, Pipapo, TomBrewerGallery, and the Urbana Museum of Photography.


Our parks get in on this year’s event both through The Great ARTdoors installations, covered utility boxes, and demonstrations and displays. Artist Michael Darin showcases his piece, SPROUT, with a Color Party at Citizens Park, where you can make your own sprout. If you missed the last round of the Great ARTdoors, you can see two installations at Spurlock Museum, one of the presenting sponsors of the program.


Beyond our districts and parks, there is still so much to see and shop. Several artists will display their pieces at 40 Point One (located in Consolidated Communications on Neil St.) A block away, check out Revelations & Guarded Secrets from Glen C. Davies and Steve Hudson. Texture Home in Old Farm Shops will feature three local artists, all sure to complement your home décor. Escape to the stunning Prairie Glass House for photography from Phillip Kalantzis-Cope. Riggs Beer Company offers live demonstrations of glass making from Robert Essex in their beer garden. Plenty of backyard art parties will also happen throughout Champaign-Urbana for an intimate look into our area’s celebrated artists. While you can go a little further to White Heath to Broken Oak Gallery & Studio to see paintings from Judith Baker-Barrows, and see wood turnings by Lyn Barrows.


You won’t want to leave home without the kids, with many opportunities to engage in art. From events at the Urbana Free Library, art kits from 40 North and the Urbana Park District through the UrVANa at the Boneyard Creek Crossing, collaborative painting at Cunningham Township, youth art displays at Hopscotch Market, and dance at Springer Cultural Center, there’s something for everyone.


We could go on, but we’d rather hear your experiences throughout the Boneyard Arts Festival. Be sure to share your favorite art spots with #boneyard2021. Pack the sunscreen, a lot of water, a mask, and get ready to explore our thriving art scene—one of the many reasons to live, work and visit Champaign County. To all of our artists, and to 40 North, thank you for creating a space for the community to celebrate and explore the rich talent found right here in our backyard.




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