By Mary Sisk
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Businesses across the city will turn into art galleries this weekend for the biannual Art Scene, which provides the opportunity to buy original work and speak one-on-one with the artists who created it.
Fall Art Scene happens Friday and Saturday at 29 venues where visitors can peruse and purchase art and, depending on the location, hear live music.
“I think what’s wonderful about Art Scene is that you have this opportunity to speak one-on-one with the artist that made the art that you’re looking at,” said Mary McNamara-Bernsten, executive director of the Rockford Area Arts Council. “Artists really like to share their, kind of, personal side of themselves because it’s through their art that you get to see that.”
“What we’re loving about the locations and the venues that are participating: they’re a little bit more cohesive,” McNamara-Bernsten said. “They’re in central Rockford, which just makes it that much easier as a visitor to Art Scene to get to as many as you can.”
The event offers the opportunity to support the local scene while learning more about the artists.
“It’s nice to be able to see people, to discover new artists,” said Laura Gomel, director of 317 Art Collective, 317 Market St. “The venues that are hosting are also supporting the arts.”
Rhiannon Yandell, a resident artist at 317 Art Collective and office manager for Rockford Area Arts Council, said Art Scene helps introduce residents to local galleries and businesses.
“I heard from so many people during Spring Art Scene that they’d never been into 317 before,” Yandell said. “It is an opportunity where people can just be in a crowd where they’re just kind of walking around downtown Rockford and walking into all these places.”
Here are a few of the shows on tap
Nicole Landreth is curating the gallery show at 317 this weekend. It’s called “Mis Raíces, Mis Alas,” which translates to “my roots, my wings,” and is designed to showcase the diversity of talent among local Latino artists.
The show includes art from Eddaviel, a native of the Dominican Republic who co-created the outdoor production of Somnium: The Book of Dreams and Nightmares, which concludes its run this weekend. There’s also art from Rodrigo Ceballos, Vic Rivera, Evangelina Jimenez, Rosa Salinas and Angel Rodriguez, among others.
The show coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month.
“There’s a lot of different styles: You can see more traditional portraiture stuff, we’ve got street-art style,” Landreth said. “This show is to display that diversity of talent.”
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Around the corner in downtown, GEM, 406 E. State St., is showcasing local and regional artists’ printmaking, painting and textile work. Local artists Nadja Schutt and Caitlin Yarbro will have a display of paintings and mixed-media paper works on the store’s second floor, which is accessible only by staircase.
There will also be a tiny art gallery inside an 1860s-era vault tied to GEM’s origins as a jewelry store in downtown. The roughly 50-inch-by-90-inch vault will be filled with work from Jenny Mathews and Valentina Fedoseeva. It’s the first time the shop has opened that vault for a show, said Sarah Reed-McNamara, a printmaker and the owner of GEM.
Art Scene takes over more than just galleries. For example, more than 30 artists will be on display at Bennie’s Cleaners, 126 N. First St. It’s the largest show ever at Bennie’s, according to its Facebook event description.
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Aside from the artists on display, Bennie’s will also have an interactive video game themed exhibit called “8-Bit Gallery.” And artist China Cat 663, a Rockford printmaker whose work combines the cute with the macabre, will release a new block print as part of Art Scene. A third of the proceeds from sales of the print, which depicts an innocent-looking kitten wielding a mace along with the phrase “smash the patriarchy,” will benefit two organizations that support reproductive rights: NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
Art Scene also ties in with the final weekend of showings of Somnium: The Books of Dreams and Nightmares and the debut of a play from Artists’ Ensemble Theater titled “Julie & Jane.”
McNamara-Bernsten and Yandell hope Fall Art Scene will help generate new customers and art enthusiasts. Artists could use the pick-me-up because the coronavirus pandemic hurt them, too.
“I think that the impact from COVID to the economy has affected sales, not just for Art Scene, but sales of art in general,” Yandell said. “Having something that someone made, or having original artwork in your home, you know, is something that can bring so much joy and can just enrich your daily life so much.”
Know before you go
Where: The 29 venues can be found here.
When: 5-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 and 4-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15.
More information: Additional information can be found here.
Kevin Haas contributed to this report.