Kids and creeping things

Art openings last week highlight variety of talent

click to enlarge Young artist Sawyer Lobmaster and Pharmacy member artist Jeff Williams with their renditions of “Minecraft Husk.” - PHOTO BY LEE MILNER
Young artist Sawyer Lobmaster and Pharmacy member artist Jeff Williams with their renditions of “Minecraft Husk.”

On Jan. 14 the downtown YMCA hosted an event called the “Cookies & Canvas Monster Mash Up,” during which kids between the ages of six and 12 were encouraged to draw depictions of monsters (or other creatures – aliens were a popular choice). The resulting works were later handed over to the member artists of The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space, who were then charged with interpreting the kids’ images through their various, more seasoned techniques and styles. Less than a month later, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and 11, the originals and interpretations were displayed side by side at The Pharmacy for “Kids Night Out,” a one-time event that encouraged youthful creativity while pushing experienced artists into areas they would have been unlikely to visit left to their own devices.

The project began when Lisa Parfitt, YMCA youth development director, contacted artist Felicia Olin about the possibility of the two organizations doing some kind of a partnership. Artist Jeff Williams took on the role of coordinator and the resulting exhibit handily continued The Pharmacy’s hot streak, coming on the heels of their recent runway fashion show. Adding another dimension to the fun, musician Timothy Donavan Russell, also a Pharmacy member, composed short musical pieces for each of the children’s entries. Russell made CDs of his unique score for the exhibit and participating kids were each given a copy featuring their own work on the cover.

For Parfitt, seeing often-overshadowed children getting their chance in the spotlight made the whole thing worthwhile. “We had kids from families who have sports heroes,” she said, “and for them to be able to have a chance to shine was awesome. We had a grandmother who was tearing up. She said, ‘He has never been so proud and so happy and it gave him something to feed his spirit.’”

Jeff Williams agreed. “One of the things about this show that was really cool is having the kids realize that having their work in a gallery – not just on the wall at school or whatever – is an achievable thing.”

Discrepancy at DEMO

That same Friday, at DEMO Project (located on the Springfield Art Association campus), some equally inspiring but very different work was on display. In the front gallery, Knoxville, Tennessee, artist Emily Ward Bivens presented “Contextual Discrepancy,” a collection of absorbing and mysterious objects, each beckoning the viewer into an uncanny but strangely seductive world. Found objects, live and projected video, bird taxidermy, repurposed antique electronics and a copious amount of hair (both real and artificial) were some of the categories of items making up the display. The results are whimsical and mesmerizing if occasionally queasy.

Simultaneously in the DEMO’s rear gallery, artist Frances Lightbound, who creates work both in Chicago and her native Glasgow, Scotland, presented her exhibit, “Marking Place,” a collection of reproductions based on urban signage, recontextualizing prosaic markers as aesthetic objects in an almost overwhelming wall of monochromatic images.

Along with the two indoor exhibits, visitors to DEMO were also treated to the traveling “Pavers” show by Urbana-Champaign art duo Say Uncle, consisting of what a press release called “patio blocks, garden edgers and stepping stones,” which were placed in the yard and around the perimeter of the building. Between Bivens, Lightbound and Say Uncle, DEMO created a one-of-a-kind art event, with stimulating work in front, in back and surrounding the gallery.

The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space is located at 711 S. Fifth St. in Springfield. Visit for further information.

DEMO Project is located at 720 N. Fourth St. in Springfield. Visit for further information.

Contact Scott Faingold at

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