Boneyard Arts Festival celebrates 20th anniversary, features Boneyard Arts Market


Photo courtesy of Norden German Design Studio

Boneyard Arts Festival celebrates their 20th anniversary and will have many venues featuring artists from the Champaign County.

By Alexis Ramirez, Staff Writer

The 20th annual Boneyard Arts Festival, presented by 40 North, will showcase the work of local visual artists at participating venues across Champaign County from April 1 to April 3. For the first time ever, NORDEN German Design Studio will host the Boneyard Arts Market in the east and southeast wings of Lincoln Square Mall on April 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Boneyard Arts Festival began as a more ordinary art walk with only 13 venues. This year, it will feature more than 70 venues. But not all of the venues are gallery or museum spaces. Businesses from all industries — libraries, restaurants, bars and breweries, boutiques and stores — are invited to host artists, said executive director of 40 North | 88 West Kelly White.

Although a majority of the participating venues are concentrated in C-U, there are five “Out and About” venues in Fisher, Mahomet, Tolono and White Heath this year.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts festival had grown to featuring over 100 venues, White said.

Planning had already been underway for the 18th annual festival when Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the stay-at-home order in March 2020. 40 North initially planned to postpone the event traditionally held to coincide with Moms Weekend, White said.

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The organization eventually decided to pivot the event to an online format in the summer.

“We had people record demos. We had people record, like, studio visits so we could share it online,” White said.

The event returned to an in-person format in 2021, but, with Moms Weekend exclusively comprising virtual events, it was held in June.

As the Champaign County arts council, 40 North works on various other arts initiatives throughout the county during the year. The council displays art in non-traditional spaces — bus interior overhead panels and billboards — with “MTD ART: Moving Pictures Through Your Neighborhood” and the Sky Gallery, respectively.

The council recently held the 13th Annual Eric Show, a juried high school art show, at the Illini Union Art Gallery. For three years now, 40 North has also organized the Crystal Lake Park Art Fair, a smaller-scale outdoor art fair.

White describes a friendly and highly-collaborative grassroots arts community in Champaign County.

“I think Boneyard specifically inspires that because some of these bigger venues are entirely done by just artists doing it themselves as a group: getting together, having meetings, deciding on titles, hanging it all themselves, labeling it, promoting it, registering it for Boneyard,” she said.

The Boneyard Arts Market, abbreviated as BÄM, is organized by the NORDEN German Design Studio in partnership with the Common Ground Food Co-op and art coop, inc.

The abbreviation for the Boneyard Arts Market is stylized with the umlaut not only to clarify the pronunciation but to make NORDEN’s heritage visible, said Anna Gutsch, a managing partner of NORDEN.

NORDEN is an Urbana-based design studio. The studio’s sub-brands — NORDEN at home and Pipapo — specialize in furniture, home goods and interior design and wooden jewelry design, respectively.

It too has experience organizing community art markets. The studio organized the Mistletoe Market last December in collaboration with other local businesses.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the studio built The Little Red Hut, a wooden outdoor pop-up store in front of Common Ground Food Co-op, to allow local artists and makers to continue selling their work, said Gutsch.

“As artists and designers ourselves, we have had the wish to support our own product and our own goods but also the ones of our community; especially during the pandemic. That has shown us that it’s really important to really really focus on local,” Gutsch said.

NORDEN is collaborating with the Common Ground Food Co-op to bring an arts café to the market. The café’s menu is composed of drinks and snacks themed with the names of famous artists: the Monet Mimosa, the Frida Aloe, the Salvador Sangria and the Picasso Palette.

Common Ground aimed to create light and refreshing drinks for the daytime spring event. The cocktails were designed with non-alcoholic counterparts to be accessible for all, said Common Ground outreach coordinator Liz Sands.

Common Ground’s full-service bakery will be making splatter-painted cookies — square shortbread cookies with bright colors splattered à la Jackson Pollock.

Prior to Common Ground’s involvement in the Boneyard Arts Market, the food cooperative has participated in the greater Boneyard Arts Festival as a registered venue. The gallery in the store’s Flatlander Classroom features the work of local artists year-round.

Common Ground is guided by its four ends, or missions, the first of which is to be the center of a vibrant and inclusive community.

“We take that to mean a lot of things. We want to be all-welcoming to all people, so we try to just be a very accessible store in terms of who is able to come here, our prices, food accessibility and things like that. And it also means that we try and get really involved in community projects,” Sands said.

Common Ground regularly hosts cooking classes in the Flatlander Classroom’s full kitchen.

The art coop, inc. will be hosting a hands-on demo for paper marbling for visitors to create their own works of art.

Gutsch invites students of the University to explore the local arts community at the arts market.

“You’ve come so far to this campus,” she said. “Even if you’ve come from other places, wander around. Discover your environment. You are welcome. You are invited to be part of this vibrant community.”

White suggests those short on time visit venues hosting a large number of artists and use the festival website to create a shortlist of venues.


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