Juried Art Fair returns for 38th annual event

The painting Edge of Time by Phil Strang is shown above. Strang is one of the vendors at this years fair.

Photo Courtesy of Phil Strang

The painting “Edge of Time” by Phil Strang is shown above. Strang is one of the vendors at this year’s fair.

By Isabelle Bertolini, Staff Writer

The Craft League of Champaign-Urbana has been hosting the Juried Art Fair since 1986, and this weekend, the fair is returning the 38th annual event. From 1986 until 2018, the fair was held at the Urbana Civic Center until it was moved to the Savoy Recreation Center in 2019. The fair was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic.

This year, there were over 50 local and regional artists that applied to the show, and 35 were chosen to be featured in the fair. There will be more than a dozen art disciplines showcased at the Savoy Recreation Center.

Gary Beaumont, from Champaign, is one of the artists that will be vending at the fair. He started off as an architecture major at the University in 1969, then later found himself working in communications at the University for 35 years. While working at the University, he began taking pottery courses until he had to put it on hold. 

“I can remember throwing a pot on Monday, having our first son the next day, and then I didn’t throw pots for 30 years,” Beaumont said. 

He said he picked ceramics and pottery back up after retiring and has found himself running with it since.  

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Beaumont’s specialty is a crystalline glaze; it’s his signature.

“They’re very finicky, they’re very difficult to reproduce, there’s a lot of wastage, and it’s just a strange glaze that only a crazy person would become an expert in,” Beaumont said. “I guess that’s me.”

He has been working with crystalline glaze for 10 years now and is always experimenting and testing new methods.

“The thing that makes my crystalline stuff different is combining that crystalline glaze with other glazes,” Beaumont said. “And that took a lot of experimentation.” 

Just this week, he discovered another combination or glazes to use on his pieces.

“It’s very intellectually stimulating, you know?” Beaumont said. “To try to figure things out. I like solving problems. I like making things.”

He plans to bring pottery pieces to the fair, such as tumblers and plates, but he prefers creating pieces that hang on the wall. Some of his larger pieces are large porcelain tiles with a crystalline glaze that are 21 inches in diameter.

Phil Strang is another artist that will be vending at the fair; he attended the University in 1967. Originally, he was an architecture major but switched around until he eventually landed in radio TV communications. He did advertising for the Undergraduate Student Association record ordering services for 33 years.

When the record shop closed, Strang had a bunch of leftover glass, and he began painting on them, though he was unsure of what else to do with them.  He eventually decided to scan the strips to create prints and cards out of the glass.

Strang mentioned that he is also into canvas work, which he began about seven years ago when he lost most of the vision in his left eye.

“I only see peripherally,” Strang said. “So the detailed work I was doing like glass became much harder. I still do that, but I started doing abstract work because it doesn’t matter.”

One of the first abstract paintings he made was called “Frustration,” where he threw down paint in frustration of not being able to do what he wanted.

“I’ve learned that I really enjoy that side of me too,” Strang said. “So I’ve got a studio in my garage, where I make my mess. And then upstairs, I’ve got a smaller studio where I do paint work on a desk and do a lot of tiny detail work.”

Occasionally, he gets so close to his work that he gets paint on his nose. 

The selected vendors are passionate about their original works in ceramics, jewelry, fiber, batik, photography, glass, woodworking, drawing, painting, printmaking, basketry, gourds and mixed media. Attendees have come from over 100 miles away, and attendance has increased each year.

Admission to the event is free and to assure safety, Savoy COVID-19 guidelines will be followed. If you are looking for well-priced, sustainable and quality art and want to support your community, check out the Annual Juried Art Fair at the Savoy Recreation Center, 402 W. Graham Drive, in Savoy. Hours will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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