Party like it’s (Vachel Lindsay’s version of) 2018
The Pharmacy and the Vachel Lindsay Home celebrate a “Golden Year”
In his wildly ambitious 1920 novel, The Golden Book of Springfield, author and visual artist Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) portrays himself time-traveling a century forward to a 2018 rendition of his hometown, where he encounters “a group of…Springfield painters, sculptors, and architects who are always dynamiting our stagnant exhibitions with appropriate bombs of paint.” Fittingly, beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 8, The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space, in collaboration with the Vachel Lindsay Home, will present “The Golden Age,” a celebration of The Golden Book’s prophecy of a mystic, utopian 2018, featuring work by Pharmacy artists inspired by Lindsay’s vision, along with a chance to visit Lindsay’s actual home a few blocks away, the original site of much of the evening’s inspiration. “Cabaret Vachel” is set to follow at 9 p.m., with a variety of music and performances.
During the course of the evening, Lindsay’s poetry will be recited by Job Conger and a performance art piece by Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum actor Ted Keylon will culminate with the spectacle of a golden ball descending from The Pharmacy’s ceiling into a three-dimensional replica of Springfield’s iconic buildings, created by William Crook, Jr. Also featured will be a large-scale, five-panel, three-dimensional installation piece inspired by Lindsay and created by Delinda Chapman and Marco Mulder, situated inside the triangular building in the Pharmacy parking lot.
Wild and woolly free music combo End Times Trio will perform a high-energy piece featuring segments of a new poem, “Springfield Dreamsong,” written especially for the event by Ron Sakolsky, longtime instructor at Sangamon State University and author of the introduction to the 1999 edition of the Golden Book. Next, Pharmacy member Timothy Donavan Russell will kick off the “Cabaret Vachel” party with the debut of his Golden Age album of electronic music – featuring samples of Lindsay’s actual voice – followed by a dance-oriented set of world music by DJ Ms Lisa.
“Lindsay was a mystic, so he’s trying for some kind of big picture,” said Pharmacy member artist Wendy Allen, discussing the process of using Lindsay’s words as a jumping-off point for visual work. “He even says his golden age could be 10,000 years from now. I love when as artists we’re encouraged to hold a guiding vision and that’s what I think he was trying to offer.”
“A lot of us are doing landscapes and cityscapes,” said Pharmacy artist Diane DeLeonardo. “For me, the flying machines in the book stood out – so I did this sort of steampunk flying machine. Also in the book he talks about how there are going to be ‘microscopes that will enable all Springfield to find the fairies…and telescopes that will discover the angels’ (Vachel Lindsay), so I decided to do a piece with fairies walking naked down towards the Capitol, like a gay pride kind of thing.”
“I was working this weekend on a piece I’m going to have in the show,” said Allen. “It’s an idyllic landscape called ‘The New Eden.’ There used to be a stream running through the city which they paved over and made into a sewer. In the painting I had put in a couple by the stream but they didn’t look like they should be there so I had to erase them.”
Down the street at the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, the Vachel Lindsay Association will be hosting its own complimentary festivities, with tours of the house and solo musical performances by Kate Laine and Ellyn Thorsen on Friday evening and traditional string duo Peaches & Bacon on Saturday. (The Pharmacy’s exhibit will also be open for visitors on Saturday evening.) Lindsay Association member and tour guide Ian Winterbauer is grateful for the attention being paid to the great Springfield poet, even if it is a little bewildering. “Nobody has ever given Vachel Lindsay attention,” he said, “but now that it’s 2018 there’s this huge excitement about him all of a sudden.” Winterbauer says that he hopes to offer attendees an opportunity to put all the art and performances they experience at The Pharmacy into context. “They’ll see Vachel Lindsay over there and probably hear his words, but there is a good chance they have no idea who he is. Most of them have probably never even been in the house.”
Winterbauer believes that Lindsay would be thrilled if he could actually travel through time to experience this weekend’s event. “It’s kind of cool to hear Vachel’s voice worked into Russell’s music,” he said. “To him, electronic music would be the future and now he’s being immortalized in that. Those kinds of futuristic, one-world ideas were really born in the rooms of that house. And over at The Pharmacy they’re coming to life. I think Vachel would get a kick out of it.”
The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space is located at 711 S. Fifth St. and the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site is at 603 S. Fifth. “The Golden Age” opening event is from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Friday, June 8, immediately followed by “Cabaret Vachel.” The Pharmacy and the home will also be open to visitors Saturday evening.
Scott Faingold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.