Annual Boneyard Arts Festival launches on campus Thursday


Champaign’s 40 North kicks off its annual Boneyard Arts Festival, which will be held April 9-12 throughout Champaign-Urbana.

Champaign’s 40 North will kick off its annual Boneyard Arts Festival on Thursday, with the University campus as its first stop before visiting the rest of Champaign county.

The festival, which is presented annually by 40 North Champaign County Arts Council, is in its 13th year and has been growing rapidly since its inaugural year in 2002, when it was a 13-site art reception.

The festival, which spans four days and 90 different venues, will stop at campus locations such as the YMCA, The Krannert Art Museum and Courtyard Cafe. The festival features the works of hundreds of local and regional artists, including University students. The work spans a diverse range of media, including sculpting, weaving, photography, dancing, glassblowing and poetry.

Kelly White, executive director of 40 North, is one of two staff members organizing the festival alongside several volunteer committees who have been preparing for the festival since September. White said she sees the festival as a unique platform for artists to showcase their work in a non-conventional way.

“The Boneyard is quite different from your average arts festival, where streets are closed down, and there are rows of booths with artists selling their work,” White said. “This festival takes place in venues, both traditional and non-traditional, across the county for four days. Therefore, you not only get to discover new local artists but also new local businesses, organizations and open studios. And since the art is not restricted to booths, the diversity is remarkable.”

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    With a wide variety of work being showcased throughout the festival, White said she feels like there is something for everyone.

    “In one venue you might see whimsical paintings on display in a café while next door you could see an empty store front completely transformed with site specific installation art,” she said. “In a venue down the street there might be a lineup of bluegrass and rock music while across town a fiction writers group are reading their work. You can watch wheel-throwing or traditional glass-blowing demos, listen to a jazz quartet or experience an African drumming performance … No matter what your interests, you’re likely to find it during the Boneyard.”

    Since its inception all those years back, the festival’s primary goals have remained clear, she said.

    “Its goal is to bring together local artists, businesses and organizations for a special event showcasing the art of this community,” she said. “The festival stimulates cultural, economic, social and educational growth by providing an opportunity for people of every age, background and interest to participate.”

    This year, artists will be sharing their work in venues throughout Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, Homer, Mahomet, St. Joseph and Sidney. One of these artists is Champaign glassblower Jason Mack, who will be showcasing his work for the second time at this year’s festival.

    “Boneyard is a great opportunity to connect with local businesses, artists and potential patrons,” Mack said. “Just in the preparation stages, I have been able to get to know community members that are able and interested in helping to realize some of my larger public art projects.”

    Mack, who has created furnace-worked sculptures and lamp-worked jewelry, will display his art along with 50 other artists at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign. Visitors can partake in some participatory activities like painting and graffiti work.

    Mack said he feels like the festival provides both experienced and amateur artists an ideal launchpad to display their work within the community.

    “It can be hard to find a place to show work that is in between craft-oriented street festivals and traditional gallery shows,” he said. “So this is a welcome opportunity that inspires local artists to really hustle and step up their game.”

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