As you may have noticed, one of Smile Politely’s goals is to keep readers informed on what they can participate in, eat, listen to, or just generally check out in the community. Look no further than the Weekender, the Overture, or Five things for evidence. So now it’s my turn to let you in on what arts related events are happening around town in the coming weeks. Whether it’s theater, visual arts, literature, film, dance, crafts fairs, classical music, or just observances of art out in the wild, this should be your one stop shop for a variety of arts related events to look forward to and suggestions to check out.

And, just to be clear, this is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of every single thing happening in the area. Instead, it is a curated list of things I think you should check out this month. 

ART of Illustration at the Giertz Gallery
Through March 27th

This exhibit showcases the works of ten contemporary U.S. illustrators, each with a unique perspective and method of illustration. Curator Liza Wynette says, “In our visually saturated environment, illustrators must create work that communicates efficiently and effectively” and that the goal of the exhibit is “to bring the best commercial art out of the wild and into a gallery setting where the audience will have the time and space to truly appreciate the work.” The artists featured in the exhibit are Anna and Elena Balbuss, Ed Binkley, Chris Buzelli, Marcos Chin, Tatsuro Kiuchi, Miriam Martinic, Bill Mayer, James Prosek, Ralph Steadman, and Matt Wiley, and their works have been featured in a variety of mediums including book jackets, children's books, classic novels, magazines, and newspapers. So perhaps consider meandering through some illustrations. Or if you prefer, attend a lecture by one of the feature illustrators, Ed Binkley at noon on Tuesday, March 27th in the gallery.

Giertz Gallery
Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Ave, Champaign
M - Th: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sa: noon to 2 p.m.

Photo provided by Giertz Gallery. 

8 to Create Live Event at Link Gallery 
March 10th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with reception at 6:30 p.m.

I recently learned about a live art-making event that is in its fourth year called 8 to Create. It's hosted by a student run organization, and the basic premise is that eight artists have eight hours to create eight works of art right in front of you. As concept, it seems pretty cool, and I'm interested to see how it works in practice. What's it like to watch an artist at work? Will the artists interact with each other at all? Will they interact with the observers at all? What can someone do with eight hours? You're invited to stop by anytime during the eight hours to obesrve the artists at work and maybe even see their projects pull together. You can also attend a reception once it’s all over and get the chance to meet and discuss their works face to face. I am really looking forward to this one. 

Link Gallery
School of Art + Design at Illinois
408 E Peabody Dr, Champaign
Event: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., reception at 6:30 p.m.

Photo from Facebook. 

Book release party for Polymer by Caleb Wilson aUrbana Free Library
March 15th from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m

Caleb Wilson is a local author who is debuting his novella Polymer on March 15th, and I highly recommend checking out his work, especially if you love beautifully weird and wonderful things. Wilson describes Polymer as falling into the genre of “bizarro,” which is a relatively new genre that has its roots in absurdism and the grotesque and aims to tell entertaining and eccentric stories. The novella focuses on Polymer, an almost god-like monster hunter in a strange city, and is told through the perspective of a group of his most adoring and insatiable fans. “My inspirations were Castlevania and Purple Rain,” says Wilson. Having just finished reading it, I can definitely say that it is engaging and eccentric and downright weird, in the best way. And the Urbana Free Library is actually hosting a book release party on March 15th; Wilson will be there for discussion and book signing. This would be a great chance to meet a local author with an interesting mind.

Urbana Free Library
210 W Green St, Urbana
M - Th: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fri - Sat: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sun: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Book Release Party: March 15th, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Photo provided by Caleb Wilson. 

Cock by Mike Bartlett at the Station Theater 
March 22nd to April 7th 

The Station Theatre’s calls this play “a fight to the death for love.” Mike Bartlett’s Cock follows the story of John, who after a few happy years with his boyfriend, “accidentally” falls in love with a woman. He’s tormented in his choice between the two, who are both willing to wait for him, but also to fight for him. The Station Theatre press release ends with, “As the pressure mounts, a dinner with both parties is arranged. With everyone now in the ring, the battle ensues,” which definitely sounds intriguing. I read the play years ago and remember it as funny, smart, and engaging, as well as balanced in its discussion of heavier topics like what it means to love someone. Honestly, I’ve been dying to see it on stage since I read it, and I think the Station is going to be a really great space for it. It's a physically intimate space, but also the kind of space where these stories are told with care. This production is being directed by Station Theatre Artistic Director Rick Orr, so I trust it is in good hands.

Station Theatre
223 N. Broadway, Urbana
March 22nd - 24th: 8 p.m.
March 25th: 3 p.m.
March 28th - April 1st and April 4th - 7th: 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased here.

Photo from Station Theatre website. 

Barbecue by Robert O'Hara at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts 
March 29th to April 8th

Barbecue by Robert O'Hara centers on a family confronting a sibling about her substance abuse and how that conversation unfolds. Krannert's website says, "Familiar tropes from domestic dramas give way to startling new revelations as a family’s identity shape-shifts across an evolving landscape of race, class, and consciousness." The play itself sounds interesting, but I must admit that the major draw here for me is the guest director, Chuck Smith, who is a resident director at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago with tons of talent. I know many people are very excited about this production, so full disclosure, all of the performances are already sold out. That being said, if you’re willing to go in on the night you want to see it and put your name on the wait list, you’ll likely get in. I can’t make any promises, but I’ve done that a couple of times by myself and I haven’t been turned away. And it sounds like it's going to be worth it!

Krannert Center for Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana
March 29th - 31st: 7:30 p.m.
April 4th - 7th: 7:30 p.m.
April 8th: 3:00 p.m.

Photo from Krannert website. 


All event information is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but things may change. You should always double-check the source before you make any firm plans. Thanks for your understanding.