EXCHANGE: Corporate office showcasing local art in Urbana

URBANA, Ill. (AP) – It seems like a place you’d go to invest in great art, not view it.

As part of a new initiative to showcase local art, more than 30 pieces now hang upstairs in the public spaces of Busey Wealth Management’s corporate headquarters on Main Street in downtown Urbana.

There’s an oil on canvas piece by local artist Brian J. Sullivan, whose “Reflections in a Red ‘57 Chevy” painting emphasizes the iconic chrome of that classic car.

There’s a hammered copper ear of corn, and metal twisted into a tree, and a vividly colorful metal piece by Greg Stallmeyer, an automotive paint specialist who uses that talent to create art.

And then there’s Eric Nash’s three-panel painting across an entire wall – a massive collection of tiny dots that together form a spectacular illustration of Champaign-Urbana’s nighttime horizon, which Nash titled, “Jewel of the Prairie.”

A Champaign-Urbana native, University of Illinois graduate and professional artist living in Los Angeles, Nash was commissioned to come up with an original work to kick off Busey Wealth Management’s exhibit. Local artists’ work will continually be displayed on a six-month rotating basis with help and guidance from 40 North, the local nonprofit that promotes the arts, culture and education.

“It’s remarkable,” 40 North Executive Director Kelly White said of the opportunity for local artists to display their work publicly. “That’s all artists want, is to have their art validated and seen.”

And, she added, an exhibition in a nontraditional space like this will give some an opportunity to experience art that they might never have seen otherwise.

“I love the precedent,” she said.

Busey Wealth Management President Curt Anderson said the hope is this a trend-setting initiative for other local businesses. He encourages the public to come by during business hours – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays – and see “The 1868 Collection,” so named because that was the year Busey was founded.

Busey Wealth Management will be purchasing some pieces as permanent additions to the ongoing exhibit, Anderson said. The collection already includes one permanent piece – “Reflections,” by the late local artist Billy Morrow Jackson, who was commissioned by Busey in 1984 to capture construction of the downtown Urbana building.

Mr. Jackson’s painting is a beautiful trip through local history, depicting notable people and places in the city.

“It was a very important thing for us to do,” Anderson said of the new project, which was launched to coincide with Busey’s 150th anniversary.

Anderson said the company wanted to “do this right,” which entailed some minor renovations – adding lights and a wire hanging system to the second and third floor atrium and hallway areas to properly display the art pieces, some of which are available for purchase, but not through Busey Wealth Management.

The initial call for art attracted 160 submissions from local artists.

“It was a really great response,” White said.

A panel of jurists, mostly Busey employees, selected the first round of pieces for the exhibition, which also includes art from fourth- and fifth-graders from Dr. Preston L. Williams Jr. Elementary. Each new exhibition will also incorporate student art.

Another call will go out after the first of the year for a second round of art, from which a new lineup with be chosen and displayed for another six months.

Anderson said the goal is to create a dedicated exhibition area that will be a continually changing landscape for people to enjoy.

“Hopefully, they will always see something new when they come back,” he said.

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Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette: bit.ly/2Tfs2HF

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Information from: The News-Gazette, www.news-gazette.com

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