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Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 12:09 am

DEMO demolished, but UIS Gallery going strong

DEMO Project, mid-demo.
Photo BY Piero Taico.


The DEMO Project art space on the grounds of the Springfield Art Association achieved its apotheosis this past Wednesday when the small house, still festooned with fanciful work by 17 artists installed last month for the “demo DEMO” farewell exhibit, was demolished by a single backhoe to make room for new SAA facilities. The demolition was always in the cards for DEMO (hence the name) since 2013, when it was offered for use as a showcase for contemporary work until such time as funds were available for improvements to the SAA campus. It is not known for sure if there has ever been a building destroyed while displaying a full art exhibit on its exterior.

“I knew it was going to happen, of course,” said Allison Lacher, one of the DEMO’s directors, who witnessed the destruction firsthand, “but it was still shocking to see that claw come down – the back porch suddenly splintering, artwork flying all over the place. It was awesome, in the truest sense – and when the whole front just collapsed, it was really a sight to behold. I don’t toss the word ‘epic’ around very often, but it was epic. It was crazy.”

After five years of presenting monthly shows in the now-defunct space, Lacher is not sure what, if anything, might eventually take DEMO’s place. She said that she believes there are people in the community who are going to feel the void left by DEMO and will want something else. “Here in Springfield, I find that people want to give artists opportunity,” she said.

In the meantime, Lacher and fellow ex-DEMO director Jeff Robinson continue to manage and direct the UIS Visual Arts Gallery, which is dedicated to presenting contemporary work and is currently hosting a show entitled “Hold Me” by Chicago-based artist Erin Hayden. “We had another artist scheduled and they had to cancel because of an emergency. Not only did Erin agree to do this with only two week’s notice but she also made all new work for the show.”

Mixed media piece from “Hold Me” by Erin Hayden, on display at UIS Visual Arts Gallery through Feb. 22.
Photo courtesy UIS Visual Arts Gallery
The work in “Hold Me” is also Springfield-centric, using the image and layout of Abraham Lincoln’s presidential funeral card as source material. “She designs and prints digital canvases and then paints on those,” Lacher said. “We see a lot of Lincoln work here, to the point where sometimes I want to say, ‘Get on with it! There are so many other awesome points of history to reflect on here!’ But Erin brings a fresh take on Lincoln. I think the work is very funny and smart and politically charged.”

Robinson and Lacher have talked about wanting to bring the spirit of DEMO to the UIS gallery, although it remains to be seen how this will manifest. “This gallery is an institution, though,” said Lacher. “It’s not going anywhere.”

The Visual Arts Gallery is located on the UIS campus in the health and science building, room 201, and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. “Hold me” will be on display through Thursday, Feb. 22. For more information, visit www.uis.edu/visualarts/gallery

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com

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