Venture into southern Illinois this fall and discover two outstanding art venues that may not have been on your radar screen — the Mitchell Museum at Cedarhurst in Mt. Vernon and the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center at Rend Lake.
The Mitchell Museum, the legacy of oil entrepreneur John R. Mitchell and his wife, Eleanor, opened in 1973 and regularly offers top-notch exhibits. The Cedarhurst Estate also hosts the annual Cedarhurst Craft Fair Sept. 10-12. Some 130 juried craftspeople will show their wares at this highly regarded event, now in its 34th year. Admission is $5 and there is a beer garden for when your legs grow weary. Take a shuttle bus at the parking lot at Times Square Mall in town to the Cedarhurst grounds, because there is no parking at the craft fair. Cedarhurst is located on the Richview Road at the western edge of town.
The museum has five galleries, the main one showing work by nationally known artists. The current exhibit is “Under the Influence of Ducks: The Art of M.A. Papanek-Miller.” Miller is the chair of the art department at DePaul University in Chicago, and is showing layered collages with an environmental theme. Two quilt shows will also be on display. The museum is open 10-5 Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 on Sunday and offers concerts and special events throughout the year.
Mt. Vernon is also known for the Appellate Courthouse, built in 1857. Abraham Lincoln argued a famous tax case representing the Illinois Central Railroad there in 1859, and Clara Barton is said to have used the building as a hospital after a tornado hit town in 1888. The handsome Greek revival building is at 14th and Main streets downtown. Tours can be arranged Monday through Friday by calling 618-242-3120.
Another unexpected pleasure is the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center just south of Mt. Vernon at Exit 77 off I-57, where you can see work by juried Illinois artists from the Illinois Artisans Program. There is also a beautiful art gallery that hosts shows five or six times a year. The facility is part of the Illinois State Museum and hosts exhibits curated by ISM staff. The ISM’s popular Lincoln exhibit, “From Humble Beginnings,” will be on display there through Sept. 26.
The Rend Lake Wine and Art Festival is coming up Sept. 25-26 on the grounds of the Art Center and is well worth the trip. Illinois artisans will offer their creations alongside 13 southern Illinois vintners. There will be demonstrations of blacksmithing, basketmaking, and glass blowing. Admission is only $2, and open tasting is $10, which includes a commemorative wine glass. Can’t beat that. For more information, call 618-629-2220. It is always a fun event.
Two wineries are nearby – Pheasant Hollow on the other side of I-57 opposite the Art Center, and GenKota in Mt. Vernon. And there is always the Southern Illinois Wine Trail south of Carbondale for a taste of what southern Illinois soils produce.
Of course the Rend Lake area offers boating, fishing, camping, golf and lodging at the Rend Lake Resort. There’s much more to explore in state parks further south. But this will get you started discovering the part of southern Illinois at the intersection of I-57 and I-64.
Contact Ginny Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.