Secret art gallery opens in Champaign

The Basement Gallery in downtown Champaign on it’s opening night, June 17.

By Senait Gebregiorgis

A new, not-so-typical art gallery just opened its doors to the Champaign community — but its location remains a mystery. According to its website, The Basement Gallery is located somewhere in the oldest neighborhood of Champaign, but the gallery’s creator and University alumnus Sam Logan won’t reveal exactly where it is.

“We have so much access to every piece of information there is that it gets boring,” Logan
said. “If I hold back a little information and leave a little mystery
to it, I think that is fun. … I thought,
‘What would I have fun doing?’ That’s how I kind of let things guide
me.”

Tickets for an event are usually posted on the gallery’s website with the artist’s
biography and portfolio — giving the public one of the only previews of
what to expect at the event. Logan lists the location of the event as a random bar in Downtown
Champaign instead. He calls it a “rendezvous,” and
from there, he allows the attendees to mingle among themselves until he
finally arrives to pick them up and lead them on a walking trip to The
Basement Gallery.

Logan said the secretive vision all started in May, when Logan and his girlfriend first moved to their new house.

“I let my girlfriend decorate the whole place, and I needed a spot for my photos,” Logan said. “I was walking through the basement, and I started to hang (the photos) in the basement, and I was like, ‘Dude, I could have a gallery here.’” 

After playing around with his photos, Logan envisioned lights hanging above pictures and chalk covering black boards. He imagined writing titles and prices for different art on display.

Today, he made this vision possible, but instead of hanging his own photos, he displays the works of other artists. 

“As you go along in any project like this, you see things that you can do,” Logan said. “I originally hung the art on hangers. I took hangers, and I flipped them upside down. Now, that’s my logo.”

Logan’s girlfriend and Illinois alumna Molly Genta said she admits she was initially a bit hesitant about the idea of having an art exhibition for the public in the basement of her home, but she trusted Logan and eventually supported it.

“He takes a vision, and then he goes for it,” Genta said. “For him to take the vision and do it — it was no surprise. I’m surprised by his ideas that he comes up with. … But he pulled it through.”

 Information for artists who might be interested in displaying their work is located on The Basement Gallery’s website.

On Wednesday, The Basement Gallery hosted its first event: artist Chris Smith shared some of his canvas prints through his photography work “TwoBrainz.” Smith put his canvas prints on display and for sale at the exhibition.

Logan met Smith while working at “Smile Politely,” a Champaign-Urbana online magazine. After becoming familiar with some of Smith’s works, Logan asked him to be the first artist to test out The Basement Gallery.

Smith said his participation in Logan’s art gallery was exciting for him because of his passion for photography.

“Photography allows me to represent or view beauty in all aspects of life,” Smith said. “It’s really personal, but at the same time, I love to share it because I know there are people out there going through what I’m going through.”

Smith said having an art gallery in Champaign adds a positive growth to the community, especially for artists like him.

“I really just want to be able to help (Logan) further this for more artists and put the exposure out there. When I first started, I needed the support of my community,” Smith said. “Former Mayor Don Gerard usually comes to all my shows. Having a person like him who represents the city of Champaign come out and say, ‘Hey, as a young person who’s adding to the culture of our town, I support it,’ that always meant a lot to me.”

Logan said the best way for people to learn more about The Basement Gallery is to attend an event. After that, the gallery may not appear as suspicious anymore.

Logan said he isn’t worried about the gallery losing its mystery.

“I think that it’ll still be fun,” Logan said. “I’m still going to set up rendezvous at different bars downtown and have artists put up (their) art in the bars and have that be the meeting spot. The walk is going to be fun too, whether you know where it is or not.”

Despite the challenge of maintaining The Basement Gallery’s secretive nature, Genta said she has confidence it will continue to successfully host art exhibitions.

“I hope that the gallery can be somewhere where people want to come and get their art at. I hope people want to seek Sam out and say, ‘Hey, I would love to be an artist in your gallery,'” Genta said. “Hopefully, it can continue to grow as we’re here and continue to get people in here to show off their work and talent. You know, become an art community together.”

The next location? 

No one knows.

[email protected]