Springer Center’s 61st annual amateur art show draws to a close

Photo by Lindsay Cox |  Art from local community members line the walls of the Springer Cultural Center.

Photo by Lindsay Cox |
Art from local community members line the walls of the Springer Cultural Center.

Photo by Lindsay Cox

Photo by Lindsay Cox

Greg Gancarz

Staff Writer

The art gallery at the Springer Cultural Center will be coming to a close with a reception and juror critique session at 10:30 a.m. on April 29 after nearly two months of public display.

The gallery, part of the center’s annual Town & Country Amateur Art Show, provides artists in Champaign County with the chance to have their pieces publicly displayed and critiqued by a professional in the field of art. This year’s work has been on display since March 18. This year’s critiquing professional and judge was Parkland’s own Paula McCarty.

Michelle Olden, the cultural arts coordinator at the Springer Center, who has been heading the gallery since 2008, says the Amateur Art Show is “an opportunity to encourage amateur artists to get out there, show [their] work, learn how to frame [their] artwork, and make it pop. Anybody [is welcome] as long as they’re an amateur.”

Those of all ages are encouraged to enter their work to the show. Most submissions rarely go above four pieces per person, but Olden says she doesn’t turn people down if they want to enter even more. Once work is submitted, the chosen juror for the event reviews the pieces and awards ribbons to select pieces for advancement into the state competition.

“It’s judged in two categories: youth and adult,” McCarty says. “There’s a ‘Best of Show – Youth,’ a ‘Best of Show – Adult,’ and the judge is required to give blue ribbons to those she feels should be sent on to the state show in fall. There are only two ribbon types so not everybody gets a ribbon.”

All participants are awarded participation ribbons for taking part, however.

Artists who received a ‘Best in Show’ or blue ribbon are eligible to compete in the state show but are not required to do so. At the state competition, which has competitors from other counties throughout the state, Olden says the judging is split across three distinct media.

“We break it into three categories; drawing & painting, photography, and 3D,” Olden says. “At that show, there are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons. The state competition is also held at the Springer Cultural Center in downtown Champaign, but not until the fall. The first step to being in it, is winning a ribbon in the county Town & Country Amateur Art Show.”

McCarty, who now teaches in the hospitality department at Parkland, took classes in Champaign County in the late ‘90s before receiving artistic degrees in Illinois and California in later years. She now teaches a variety of artistic classes at Parkland as well for the Park District at Springer, in addition to having served as the Exhibitions Coordinator at what is now the Giertz Gallery for multiple years.

This is McCarty’s second year judging the show.

“I look for various things when judging art and they don’t always overlap:” McCarty says, “ technical skills, inventiveness or originality, content or story-telling, expressiveness or ability to convey emotion, and more formal concerns such as composition, use of color, value, space, line, [and] texture.”

As a local and an artist, McCarty says the whole show is truly enjoyable, whether it’s hanging the pieces and making it all come together or “see[ing] the wide variety of artistic expression in different media and from all ages.”

With 110 total pieces submitted by over 50 different amateur artists of all ages, Olden called this year’s turnout “wonderful.” She says it’s the highest turnout that she can remember.

McCarty says the competition is a chance for amateurs to get out there, really make their work come to life and even go above and beyond. Skills like matting, framing, and wiring are highly encouraged.

“It’s really just to help them,” McCarty says. “If this is something they want to pursue, someday go to school for it, have their own business, they need to learn framing and matting. We also have wiring guidelines too. It’s important for them to learn that. It’s just to really learn the process and learn what professional artists do.”

This year, ribbons were put up mid way through the show.

“I think it’s good for people to get to see it all and enjoy it all before they see what’s been selected,” she says.

Now that the winners have been chosen, the next big event for the artists is the Artist Reception and juror critique. The reception is held exclusively for the artists and their families but the critique is open to anyone.

McCarty notes that the critique is not meant to tell the artists “what they were doing wrong.”

“It’s meant to encourage amateur artists,” McCarty says. “Just constructive and helpful things to help each of them grow and be a better artist.”

Olden recommends people interested in taking part in next year’s amateur art show keep an eye out for details in their spring guide which comes out in late November. She says there, people can find show dates and more information.

“Once it gets going, we’ll have a few phone numbers available and guidelines for the show will be available at the front desk,” Olden says.

Information can also be obtained through the Springer Cultural Center’s website at champaignparks.com/facility/springer-cultural-center or by phone at 217-398-2550.