Illini Union Art Gallery provides peaceful, inspiring getaway

By Samuel Kottoor, Columnist

College can do a funny thing where it strips you of all your external interests and forces you to focus only on major-specific topics. My exposure to the arts became practically nonexistent as an engineering major. It’s a dirty, rotten trick for college to play, and it must have been hidden in the terms and conditions.

With the limited time I have outside of classes, I need an artistic outlet to keep my humanity in one piece.

The Illini Union Art Gallery is hands down my favorite room on campus —  not my favorite place, but my favorite room. (my favorite place is a difficult decision, whether it be the roof of Krannert Center, Altgeld Bell Tower at the stroke of midnight or the Alice Campbell Alumni Center fountain).

The art gallery is tucked away in the northwest corner of the Union, along with the President’s Lounge and the Pine Lounge. Those three rooms come as a package, each with themes of sophistication, serenity and blooming creativity. Both lounges are ideal study spots, stripped free of the tension and stress-filled environments that Grainger and other spaces have to offer. And when you need a break from the studying, you can mosey on into the Art Gallery.

While most places on campus trend toward futurism, these three rooms distinguish themselves with their signature interiors. There are few rooms left on campus with a historic presence in the woodwork, showcased through the Colonial Revival style of architecture. The uniqueness of these rooms lie in their battle against modernism, seen in the evils of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building and the Siebel Center for Computer Science.

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The gallery is a white-walled room, reminiscent of an empty canvas, showcasing various artwork. Each art collection is on display for about a month until it is replaced with the next one. This constant circulation of artwork makes for variety and something to look forward to every month.

The room is small in space, but always feels larger than life due to lack of popularity. A majority of the time I’m in there I’m alone, engulfed in my surroundings. With the lack of popularity comes peacefulness.

This is why it is my favorite room on campus. Between classes, during a study break or when I need to think of article ideas, I wander into the room for inspiration. The ideas and works are visually stimulating and always bursting with creativity. I always walk away calmer, more inspired, maybe with a fresh new idea for a comic, a picture or a skit. Sometimes, I even bring my backpack in there, sit on the floor and crank out some homework.

This provides me with an escape from my non-colorful engineering course load. It lifts me up when I’m down and makes me right when I’m left. There are few other places on campus that create a sense of urgency to be as creative and inspired as you can be. I highly recommend you check out the Illini Union Art Gallery and take some time to truly reflect in there. There’s nothing like it.

If you check it out, please keep it low-key, for me. Actually, just don’t go there.

Samuel is a junior in Engineering.

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