Art Critiques create networking opportunities for CU Artists

Art can be a lonely profession.

But thanks to an ongoing series of art critiques co-sponsored by the Krannert Art Museum and 40 North 88 West, artists of all different media can come together to critique their work and meet fellow artists within the Champaign-Urbana community.

The next installment of the series will take place Tuesday in the Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, at 7 p.m. and feature Don Lake, a retired Parkland College art professor and watercolor painter. The event is free and open to the public.

Jenny Southlynn, the moderator of the event and a painter herself, said the critiques are a particularly valuable opportunity for artists in the community to socialize with others.

“Most people that are making art in the community that are not in school are working in isolation,” Southlynn said. “They don’t get a lot of feedback from their peers because they go to their study and they do their thing. This is a great way for people to come and really interact with other artists and get feedback.”

Steven Bentz, director of operations for 40 North 88 West, said the events allow artists to connect with each other.

“It’s a good opportunity for artists to be with others in their trade that they can talk with about ‘Where are the opportunities in this community? How can I find the workshop I’m looking for? Where can I get a gallery position? What grants are available?’” he said. “It’s just nice to be able to network with other artists.”

Southlynn said the diversity among the artists leads to stronger critiques.

“If someone that’s a musician is giving a painter feedback, they have a totally different perspective and vice versa,” Southlynn said. “We’ve had some really, really dynamic, interesting discussions.”

Bentz said presenting artists can expect a positive environment.

“They are not negative events,” Bentz said. “People don’t get torn up. They don’t see their work get ripped to shreds. It’s a really open and positive experience for all.”

Southlynn describes the critiques as an “informal discussion” where constructive feedback is encouraged.

“This isn’t a value judgment. We are not talking about whether we like or dislike the work,” Southlynn said. “We’re talking about what’s working and what maybe isn’t and why, and getting people to be really specific. If they say an area in the painting isn’t working, we want to know why.”

Occasionally, Southlynn invites professional artists within the community to attend the critiques and provide their perspective.

“They make a valuable contribution,” Southlynn said. “They are not there to do the critique alone. They’re there to participate in the discussion just as anyone else. Except their words carry a little more weight. They have a little more authority because they are professionals in their field and have lots and lots of experience.”

Lake said he does not plan on displaying any new pieces, but plans on participating in the critiques. He said he believes people learn best through encouragement.

“My general rule in criticism over the years is to try to describe what’s in front of me,” Lake said. “In describing, you come to some obvious conclusions about it. I try to find what is positive about it and try to find some larger theme that may be at work there that other people might not see the way I do.”