Parkland hosts ‘Coffee & Tea: Cups and Desserts’ benefit

By Alexis Ramirez, Staff Writer

Lisa Costello, director of the Parkland College Art Gallery, said she’s always paid attention the ways people pick up different cups. You can tell a lot about a person based on the type of cup they pick up and what they put in it, she said.

“There’s always what color they like and what shape they like, or ‘I’m a tea drinker,’ or ‘I like a big mug of coffee in the morning,’ or ‘I like a small, tiny cup’ or ‘I drink espresso,’” she said. 

The biennial “Coffee & Tea: Cups and Dessert” benefit will explore this curiosity further, as it returns to Parkland College’s Giertz Gallery Lounge Dec. 9. With their ticket purchase, visitors will be able to enjoy coffee or tea in a cup of their choice,  a live classical guitar performance and bid on ceramic art.

The available complimentary cups have been collected over the past two years as donations from faculty and students, Costello said. Select works will also be available for purchase.

“People really enjoy it because there’s that sense of anticipation of getting a mug that one of our students made — or faculty — and, of course, the silent auction adds to that,” Costello said.

The online and silent auction features 54 items including faculty and student ceramics, prints and scarves. The auction closes at 2 p.m. when it will transition to an in-person silent auction at Giertz Gallery.

Prior to the closing of Parkland’s hospitality program, desserts for the benefit were made by Parkland students.

This year, desserts will be provided by Nothing Bundt Cakes, a sponsor of the benefit and Ceramics Invitational. Champaign franchise owner Mia Fuller was excited about the prospect of sponsoring the benefit, Costello said. The shop’s bundtlets, small cakes made in a Bundt pan and characterized by their doughnut-like shape, will be prepackaged for visitors to take home.

In compliance with state mandates, Parkland College has restricted entry to its campus buildings, Costello said.

Visitors must present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to gain entry. Masks must be worn at all times, except while actively drinking. Organizers have prepared isolated areas outside the lounge for visitors to eat their dessert if they wish. The benefit has been divided into two sessions — starting at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. — to help maintain social distancing.

COVID-19 safety precautions have also had an impact on the benefit’s selection of live music acts. This year’s event will feature only one solo performer — Dr. Guido Sanchez-Portuguez, clinical assistant professor of guitar at Illinois’ School of Music — instead of a band.

“Art galleries have always been perfect venues for the classical guitar,” Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez said.

The small size of the art gallery, Costello said, is not fit for louder music, as it makes it difficult for guests to hear each other in conversation. Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez will perform a variety of classical guitar standards, original solo compositions and arrangements of popular songs.

The benefit runs in tandem with the “State of the Art Ceramics Biennial: The Living World in Clay.” The exhibition, curated by Parkland ceramics professor Chris Berti, features the work of contemporary artists who incorporate “humans and animal figures into their ceramic forms.” While the State of the Art exhibitions are held annually, it alternates between “works on paper” and ceramics invitationals.

Giertz Gallery is involved with the local community in a variety of ways, Costello said. Admission is always free and open to the public. The biennial “Around The Block: Artists from Our Neighborhood” exhibition features work from people who reside in Champaign and the surrounding counties. The gallery offers trips to community members who wish to visit nearby art institutions without the burden of travel, Costello said. Destinations include Frank Lloyd Wright houses, Chicago River architectural tours and St. Louis art museums.

“Please come out and support the arts in our community,” Costello said. “We’ve got terrific — approximately 130 — cups that are available to select from.”

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