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Each month through June 2023, we celebrated local artists from Champaign County.  We handed over one of our galleries to these amazing and talented local artists to showcase their beautiful artwork and highlight this piece of living history.   Their works of art were displayed for one month.  We enjoyed celebrating their outstanding work and continue celebrating the long history of outstanding local art in our county.


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December 2022 - Beyond the Prairie Landscape. A Tribute to Harry Breen

Opening Reception on Thursday, December 8 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Beyond the Prairie, Landscape is an exhibition to celebrate one of Champaign’s most celebrated artists and longest-serving art educators in the 20th and 21st centuries. Champaign County History Museum is so proud to present this exhibition selected from Harry Breen’s lifetime paintings, sculptures, and ceramic art. Harry Breen was born in Chicago in 1930. He completed his undergraduate study in art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his graduate study at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). From 1959-1985 he was a member of the faculty at the School of Art and Design at UIUC. Breen has participated in many competitive and invitational exhibitions in the United States and abroad and received multiple awards. In 1993, Harry Breen and his wife Diane were awarded Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medals by Pope John Paul II. Several years later, Breen presented His Holiness with his painting Agony in the Garden on behalf of the congregation from the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Breen has had 32 solo exhibits including Harry Breen Retrospective XXV at Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, Peoria, IL in 1978. Breen is listed in the book “Who’s Who in American Art” and his work is included in over a thousand private collections and fifty-eight public and corporate collections. Among these are the Butler Museum of American Art, The Illinois State Museum, The Krannert Art Museum, Lakeview Center for Art, The Union League of Chicago, Illinois Bell Telephone, The McDonald Corporation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Busey Bank, The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and the Vatican Library. For seven decades, Breen had drawn inspiration from the rural landscapes of Illinois, particularly the rich farmlands of the central prairie in Champaign County. The wide vistas and patterned fields, dominated by dynamic skies, have been worthy and expressive subjects for this master artist. As Breen stated: “The forms, spaces, colors, patterns, and textures found in nature have provided me with a rich vocabulary for my art. As a representational artist, I am especially interested in composing the illusion of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional space. In my recent paintings, I try to extend the illusion of a three-dimensional landscape into real space by moving the composition beyond the frame’s inner black liner into the slightly concave surface of the outer frame. It is the seemingly limitless boundaries of the prairie landscape with its ever-dominant sky, and its land shaped by the human presence that I find so expressive and poetic.” In addition to prairie landscape paintings, Breen was known for his ceramic animals. His ceramic animal sculptures reflected his love of animals. Whether cows, pigs, or horses on his grandparents' farm; the abundant wildlife on his property in southern Illinois; rescue dogs and cats in his home; or wild animals viewed on NatGeo Wild or at a zoo, he felt animals had a special place in art. To him, animals’ forms and movements hold strong aesthetic appeal and symbolize qualities with which human viewers can identify: nobility, ferocity, dignity, and silliness, to name a few.

More than fifteen years ago, Charles Wisseman invited me to visit his home art studio in his basement. I was sort of shocked to see that almost any type of material that came to his hands could be turned into art. He uses any material that seems best suited for the project at hand — including forged steel, metals, wood, ceramic, paper, plastic, found objects and even dead bugs. It was also in that visit I learned that his academic profession was medical pathology rather than art. Charles Wisseman comes from the Baltimore/Washington area. He went to Harvard (chemistry) for undergrad, University of Pennsylvania medical school and medical internship, US Public health service officer working at CDC and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Duke University for pathology residency. He came to CU in 1982 to be staff pathologist at Carle, serving as department head for his last 10 years. Clinical Associate professor and lecturer at the old UIUC medical school (now replaced by the new Carle-Illinois engineering based College of Medicine). Blood Bank board member for 15 years. As a pathologist, Charles Wisseman became used to seeing the world in cross-section and with trans-illumination. After retiring in 2005, Wisseman had more time for arts, service, travel, singing in the Unitarian church choir, and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He volunteered at the University library conservation lab repairing books. This led to an interest in book arts and papermaking. He started attending Paper and Book Intensive workshop in Michigan regularly, and built up his papermaking and binding studio. He helped get papermaking restarted at U of I. When CU Woodshop opened, Wisseman built up his woodshop and took classes in woodworking. He has always had a darkroom, and still enjoys black and white film processes, especially alternative processes and liquid silver gelatin emulsions on handmade papers. Other classes include metals at Parkland; metals, bronze, hot glass at U of I; and workshops in various media at Penland, Arrowmont, John Campell craft schools According to Charles Wisseman’s Artist Statement: “As a pathologist, I spent most days analyzing the layers of pattern revealed when light trans-illuminates slices of life mounted on laboratory slides. The study of disease focuses awareness on time and change, on the range of variation of natural patterns, and on the complementary information apparent at different levels of observation. I am intrigued by contrasts of order and disorder, and by the influence of chance in our optimistically-planned lives. I approach this complexity by using a variety of materials and processes in mixed media constructions, often based around a common theme or by juxtaposing varied presentations of a single image. I have experimented with wood, copper, forged steel, handmade paper, stained and fused glass, plastics and resins, ceramics, fibers (including silk painting), and photography using alternative processes in the darkroom and on the computer. Biomorphic and disease-related forms arise naturally, especially in paper and clay. My house is full of found materials looking for new life. Retirement has allowed me time to think about which processes and forms to emphasize. Experimentation with materials and process is what keeps art fresh for me, though, so each piece tends to be very individual.” “As my body ages, I am letting go of more physical processes like blacksmithing, but there is an endless supply of new materials and processes to experiment with. After a couple of dark years due to Covid-19, I have been playing more with glass and epoxy with light effects. LED panels make this much easier now.” As an important part of curating an art exhibition, I always try to have a personal conversation with the artist to learn as much as possible about the artist in general and to find out the artist’s art philosophy, theory, concept, technique, media and how a piece of art was created in particular.

January 2023 - Made in CU – Materials in art by Charles Wisseman

Opening Reception on Thursday, January 12 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


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February 2023 - Joan Stolz’s - Skin in the Game

Opening Reception on Thursday, February 9 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Joan Stolz is a Professor of Art and Design at Parkland College. She holds her MFA from the Hoffberger School of Painting, Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Illinois, and Paris, France. Her paintings are in collections at the University of Illinois and the University of Maryland. These small oil paintings on wooden panels represent areas of faces of people in the last administration, their media and financial sponsors, and others who were influential within that administration. I’ve always been a news junkie, but I’ve been obsessed with politics these last several years, and I chose to work out my obsession in a visual way. Aside from the political content, I’ve always loved painting people, but I’m not interested in narratives or straight portraiture. So it was both fun and interesting for me to choose parts of people’s faces and concentrate on the color of their skin, the color of teeth, the color of lips, and the whites of eyes, as well as the facial expressions affected by emotion, light, or an untimely photograph. Many of these people the viewer will recognize, but probably not all of them. That’s part of the fun, part of the game as well, guessing who some of these people might be.

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March 2023 - Champaign Through the Student's Lens: University Student Photography Club

Opening Reception on Thursday, March 9, from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Champaign Photography Association is a UI international student social club/organization. It currently has more than 300 active members from different academic fields who share the common interest in photography. The club believes: “Although we can't stop time’s passing, we can use our camera lens to keep the colors of dusk, the fireworks in summer, the changes of the city, smiles, faces, and precious memories of our time here in C U and at our university. All of us must have recorded the shining people and time in our cameras, cell phones and in our memories in the last few years of life in the cornfield”. This photography exhibition named “Champaign County through the Lenses of International Students” at Champaign County History Museum is the platform for us to share these happy time and good memories to everyone. In the meantime, our stories and experiences of life in C U are visually told and documented.

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Boneyard Art Festival Reception on Saturday, April 15, from 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM


CIA is a group of local visual artists who encourage one another in the practice of art through creative dialogue, critical evaluation, and thoughtful inspiration. Currently, CIA has the following active members: Judith Baker-Barrows, Debra Bolgla, Beth Chasco, Sarah Marjanovic, Melinda McIntosh, Donna Monfort, Pat Baron Monigold, Lynn Hawkinson Smith, Sara Taber and Martha Willi. Together, as women, they strive to nurture, develop, and enhance the aesthetics of our individual work by means of reflection and self-expression. In the Fall of 2016 was their debut exhibition as a group at Art Coop Gallery, Urbana, IL. Many of their members have participated in a variety of exhibitions, including, University of Illinois Krannert Art Museum MFA Exhibition, Giertz Gallery Parkland College Faculty Art Exhibition, Springer Cultural Center, Art @ the Y Murphy Gallery, Illini Union Art Gallery, 40 Point One Juried Exhibition, Boneyard Arts Festival, Anita Purves Nature Center, and Broken Oak Gallery. Additional recognition of their individual members includes solo exhibits and regional, national, and international awards. As a group of comrades CIA has created a philanthropy called Melissa’s Gift. It is in memory of their member, Melissa Lynch, who passed away in 2017 from breast cancer. This gift consists of two $250 gift cards purchased at Art Coop and then awarded to two Parkland College Fine Arts students for the purpose of buying supplies for their art classes. CIA hopes to inspire young artists while promoting a local art business and giving support to our community. Each CIA member contributes to this fund annually. In addition, a 10% donation, of work sold from any of their group exhibitions, is given by the CIA member to Courage Connection, a local organization helping victims of domestic violence and homelessness. Also on display in the gallery, A Commemorative Exhibition for Jenny Wong Barrett: Everyone in the CIA feels it is an honor to have Jenny Wong Barrett’s artwork exhibited side by side with their group exhibition. She will be like a bright star in the space along with all of CIA artwork. Together we are all strong, amazing, and creative women. As one of CIA members, Debra Bolgla states: “Jenny will always be in my heart. I miss her presence on this earth. And, as you might imagine, this means so much to me personally to see her beautiful images shared, once again, with others. I can just see her eyes light up at the thought of this exhibition.”


May 2023 - Sketching C-U Life:  Pen & Ink Drawings by Hua Nian

Opening Reception on Thursday, May 11, from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Hua Nian is currently an active exhibiting artist and art instructor of Hua Nian Art Studio in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Her paintings appear in international and national art exhibitions, winning awards at local, state, and national shows. Her works have been featured in American Artist Magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times, Dialogue: An Art Journal, and in numerous local newspaper and magazines, as well as cover art for books, music CDs, and posters produced by Stanford University, University of Illinois and others. Statement of Pen and Ink drawings After four years of studying journalism and six years of teaching photo-journalism in a college, I had helplessly become a “paparazzi.” I didn’t know what other people might think about me, but my aggressive and shameless behavior annoyed my family and they had no trouble letting me know. However, not until 1998 did I finally slow down – that was the year when my son was born. He was a tiny baby, so cute, so tender, so precious that I was so afraid that he would suddenly grow up without my eyes fixing on him. I took numerous pictures of him; many of them are successive pictures of his facial expressions and body movements. But no matter how many pictures I took, I still couldn’t ease the anxiety of possessing the fleeting moment - that was the time when I started to pick up a pencil to draw, to record his growth… Many years later, when I looked again at my sketches of him rolling, eating, waking, playing, I was thrilled as if I was right there at that particular time of that day. So the sketch pad has replaced my camera and people use of lines to express the essence; and at the same time, speed to catch the action.

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June 2023 - Robb Springfield & Beth Darling - "Home"

Closing Reception on Thursday, June 29, from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Robb Springfield studied BFA in Visual Communication at Virginia Commonwealth University 1980-1983. MFA in Graphic Design at University of Illinois 1986-1988. From 2000-2005 he worked as Program Chair / Graphic Design at the School of Art and Design of the University of Illinois. From 2005 to present he works at the Creative Director of the Flex-N-Gate (Manufacturing Corporation) in Urbana, Illinois. Urbana artist Beth Darling originally from Canada, she grew up in rural New Jersey. Beth’s Parents were visual artists and collectors. Her childhood home was filled with art and antiques. To display and enjoy their objects every surface became a still life against a backdrop of art on the walls, oriental rugs on the wide pine floors and sumptuous layers of patterned textiles. Beth studied fine art at the Maryland Institute College of Art and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass. Following her husband Ed Maclin’s career in neuroscience at the University of Illinois Beckman Institute, Beth moved to Urbana in 2001. Beth paints in oils and she has developed a painting style she calls direct observational realism. Using maps of Illinois to define a location or place, Robb created homes that explore the human identity of a dwelling. As a trained graphic designer, Robb thinks the maps represent order and utility. The stilt houses place the connection of family and home out of close physical reach, but still easily visible to the viewer. Because of their rather different childhood upbringings and living spaces of home, in contrast to Robb Springfield’s conceptual graphic designs/paintings of home, Beth Darling’s contributions to this Champaign County History Museum art exhibition “Home” are oil still life paintings featuring Fiesta ware of the 1930’s, Hispanic folk art and vintage tourist souvenirs collected from flea markets arranged on vintage table cloths. All Beth’s artworks on display in this exhibition are in the style and from the approach of direct observational realism. Her staged still lifes are very pared down arrangements that are uncomplicated yet still consciously contrived. They are not so much domestic interiors as they are theatrical “tablescapes”.

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