The Daily Illini

Art at the market values creative influences

It’s difficult to avoid the summer heat and humidity when going outdoors, but some Urbana residents hope bats can help eliminate another unfortunate part of summer: mosquitoes.

Several bat houses, which can have an aesthetic appeal, have been installed in Urbana as a grant project available through the city’s Public Arts Commission (PAC) in hopes of bringing back the waning local population.

“One bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes,” said Brett Bloom, the bat house grant recipient. “They have incredible efficiency.”

To educate Urbana residents about the bat houses, origami bat airplanes were made with Bloom at the Urbana Farmers Market on Saturday morning.

The airplanes were part of Art at the Market, held on the last Saturday of each month during the Farmers Market season.

Bloom, along with Urbana resident Bonnie Fortune, decided to build bat houses after they read an article on the subject written by a friend.

Fortune and Bloom moved to Urbana while Fortune was a student at the University of Illinois. While in Urbana, they discovered and applied for the grant program. They believe bat houses are a way to “redesign” the environment.

“Farmers spray for insects that bats could just eat,” Bloom said. “Bats’ presence can reduce the need for pest control.”

The bat house project and Art at the Market both aim to benefit all residents of the City of Urbana. Anna Hochhalter, coordinator of the PAC, believes art is for everyone.

“I will encourage people walking by to participate in the Art at the Market project and they will say, ‘I’m too old,’” Hochhalter said. “There’s no age-limit to make art though.”

Established in 2008, the PAC is within the division of Economic Development.

The PAC has approved grants for everything from the bat houses to aspiring businesses. Over 10 businesses have opened because of the incentive grant subsidy available through the commission.

Arist co-op Shared Space, located at 123 W. Main, is one business that opened with help from the subsidy incentive.

Susan Pryde, Director of Shared Space, opened the co-op, which allows area artists to pay a fee to display and sell their work. It also offers workshops which introduce Urbana residents to various art crafts.

It began with five members in early March and has expanded to 26 over the past few months. Along with a larger membership, they also expanded the building.

“The hardest year for a business is the first year,” Pryde said.

“We get funding from the Urbana Public Arts Program. They gave us a way to support the gallery.”

The commission continues to begin new arts projects and awards grants annually.

“It’s pretty amazing that a town the size of Urbana can fund a program like this,” Bloom said. “We hope to leave behind a healthy bat population.”

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