The reception took place via Zoom on Thursday, June 17th at 6 p.m. The event was hosted by Lisa Costello, the Gallery Director for Giertz Gallery at Parkland College, with support from Kelly White, the Executive Director of 40 North:  Champaign County Arts Council. Parkland College President Dr. Thomas Ramage made opening remarks, which I do wish included a Land Ackowledgement Statement similar to those provided by UIUC's Office of the Chancellor.


This year marks the third installment of the Around the Block exhibition series that highlights the artistic talent of the Champaign-Urbana community and, according to the exhibition site, “reflects the caliber of creative flourish that is present in mid-central Illinois.” Special juror Camille White, the Executive Director of the Oak Park Area Arts Council, selected the featured works from nearly 200 submissions of all forms of artistic expression, like video, quilting, painting, scultpure, mixed media, and more. Costello remarked that White was “impressed” by the talent in our area.

Virtual gallery exhibitions may be a sign of living through a pandemic, but the online format definitely makes the exhibit more accessible. Dr. Ramage noted that over 100 people had registered to attend the opening reception, and Costello was excited to utilize the exhibit platform called Exhibbit, which allows the images of works to be uploaded into a virtual gallery that the viewer can move around in, view the works side-by-side as if in an actual gallery space, zoom in to look at works more closely, and even click to inquire about purchasing information.

The virtual gallery also gives space on the museum label for the artist to describe their work, with many inspired by the isolation and loss of the pandemic, as well as the social unrest of the past few years. Many of the works, however, also express a hope for the future. White mentioned that, in her experience, artists have been resilient and stayed passionate through these difficult times. She said that art can “profoundly comfort us” during the pandemic and is critical to our quality of life. Artist Viktoria Ford shows this through her piece Breakthrough (pictured). She says of her work, "This past year has been particularly heavy and yet there has been movement and moments of lightness of being." 

Viktoria Ford, Breakthrough, oil on linen, 2021 © Viktoria Ford. Screencap from artist talk.
Viktoria Ford, Breakthrough, oil on linen, 2021 © Viktoria Ford. Screencap from artist talk.

That movement was also reflected in the announcement that this exhibition will be the last virtual exhibit at Parkland College before the campus opens up in late summer/early fall. In the meantime, enjoy the virutal artist talks from those featured in Around the Block III. The next will be tomorrow, Wednesday, June 30th, at 6 p.m. Ford will be a featured artist at the talk along with Jody Birdwell, whose piece titled U Turn 2 (pictured) is also featured in the exhibit.

Jo Birdwell, U Turn 2, ink, marker, charcoal pencil, 2020 © Jo Birdwell. Screencap from artist talk.
Jo Birdwell, U Turn 2, ink, marker, charcoal pencil, 2020 © Jo Birdwell. Screencap from artist talk.

Visit the Giertz Gallery website to view the virtual exhibition through Exhibbit or as a pdf catalog, and don't forget to register for the upcoming artist talks! Around the Block III will be live from June 14th through August 9th.

Top image from Zoom event (screencap).