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Champaign County’s Boneyard Arts Festival Bounces Back

Gregory Stallmeyer's painting, "Nexus" will remain the symbol for the Boneyard Arts Festival this year.

CHAMPAIGN – Artists from the Champaign-Urbana area will once again be showcased at the 19th annual Boneyard Arts Festival, June 18-20, named for the creek that runs through Champaign and Urbana.  It’s a comeback for the festival, which was limited to a virtual edition last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Artists will be showing their work at about sixty venues, according to Kelly White, executive director of 40 North, the Champaign County arts group which organizes the festival. White says that’s about half the number of venues that were featured at the last in-person Boneyard Arts Festival held in 2019. (A list of venues from the festival’s website can be found here). 

In addition, Unity In Action Magazine is holding its own Art Science & Democracy festival June 18-20, in conjunction with the Boneyard Arts Festival.

White says most of the venues will be in downtown Champaign and Urbana, but one of them, Spurlock Museum, will be on the University of Illinois campus. And another, the Broken Oak Gallery and Studio, is located in rural Champaign County, south of White Heath.

Even in this smaller version, White says the Boneyard Arts Festival maintains its format of spreading the art across several locations.

“Boneyard’s always been created for people to go out and explore,” said White. “And so, not only do you discover amazing art and experiences, but you also visit places you might not have visited.”

Some of the artwork will be shown in traditional galleries and museums. But other work will be on display at bars, shops, vacant storefronts, a library and a church.

“It can be a traditional gallery that’s registered,” said White. “But then you’ll have other spots. Pour Brothers, a bar. Or an empty space, like the old Merry Ann’s Diner here in downtown Champaign. About five artists are going to use that space. And then of course, outside stuff as well.”

Past Boneyard Arts Festivals were more structured, with each day of the festival focusing on a different region, like in town, on campus and around Champaign County. White says with this year’s smaller event, held after most students have gone home for the summer, the schedule will be looser. Over the years, the festival has grown from a gallery walk with 13 venues, to a four-day festival with more than 100 places to see the work of local artists.

White says she hopes this year’s smaller festival will be a first step for its return.

“It’s not going to quite look the same as the usual Boneyard,” said White. “But we’re building back and people are excited. And artists have been making some amazing work over the past year. So I’m thrilled.”

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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