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Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004 04:07 pm

Alliance hosts unique exhibit of area faculty art

Linda Esper, a member of the Prairie Arts Alliance staff, and Bobbie Pierro, former director, with "Ethnic Cleansing," a work by Al Shull
Photo by Job Conger

For the first time in the history of the Prairie Art Alliance, organizers have assembled an exhibit of works by faculty at Springfield's different institutions of higher education, including Robert Morris College, Springfield College in Illinois, Lincoln Land Community College, and the University of Illinois at Springfield.

The exhibit represents a break from tradition: Usually the alliance's exhibits are limited to two or three member artists. "This is the first exhibit where we have had guest artists," says Patrick Shavloske, alliance director. The exhibit, titled Making the Grade: A Review of Process, Content, Media, and Subject, features 120 works, including paintings, sculpture, and jewelry.

Shavloske says the idea for the special exhibit came from Jim Edwards, a former art educator with Springfield School District 186. Edwards, Mike Miller of UIS, and Jeff Garland of Springfield College are co-curators of the exhibit, which Shavloske says has offered an exciting opportunity to bring local artists together.

"Unless you visit a gallery at Springfield College or UIS, you don't appreciate the talent that's there. Unlike a typical two-person exhibit here, visitors find a great variety of style and technique, often unappreciated in the community."

The participating artists were invited to submit a statement about their work, including how their experiences and education influenced them. "These snippets," says Shavloske says, "give insight about the process which the public might find only through person-to-person conversation."

For example, UIS's Bob Dixon taught art in China as a part of an exchange program and studied at centuries-old pottery centers. "The fruit of that labor is evident here," says Bobbie Pierro, former Alliance director, who recently visited the exhibit.

Another artist with a story to tell is Al Shull, who has been painting for nearly two decades. The 38-year-old art instructor at Lincoln Land Community College describes himself as "a social-realist expressionist." His visually arresting acrylic painting/collage "Ethnic Cleansing" is his only contribution to the production, but it's a show-stopper. The collage elements of the work are reports about the Serb-led massacres in Kosovo. "It took me almost five years to produce because I didn't know how to express it," he says. "I've been inspired the same way from other world events."

Making the Grade: A Review of Process, Content, Media, and Subject runs through Dec. 23 at the H.D. Smith Gallery of Prairie Art Alliance, 420 S. Sixth St. Admission is free and open to the public.

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