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Join us for a look at how various arts organizations in Rockford are adapting to changing cultural and economic environments. You'll hear how the community's dance, theater, and visual arts groups are collaborating and innovating to reach new audiences.

ArtScene Aims To Show 'Arts For Everyone'

Rockford Area Arts Council

The Rockford Area Arts Council’s 13th annual Spring ArtScene takes place 5-9 p.m Friday, April 10, and 3-9 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at 39 venues across the Rockford metro area.

Lenae Weichel is rehabbing 304 North Main Street in downtown Rockford with an eye to development.  The former home to a succession of insurance companies has been stripped, and there are holes and patches where workers have had to gain access to burst pipes and old wiring. 

Weichel says local artist Pablo Korona suggested to her that a large, high hall she had cleared out in the building would make a great gallery space for his ArtScene project.  People will be given cameras, then take pictures throughout the community.  The results will be hung up in the hall.  Weichel says there will also be tours highlighting some of the architectural details of the old building.  She’s thrilled to be a part of ArtScene.

“It’s really a nice opportunity to bring the whole community together around the arts, and it’s an even better opportunity for people to get into places they don’t usually get to go.”

Like an old building in the midst of a renovation.  Rockford Area Arts Council President and CEO Anne O’Keefe says that variety of show spaces is part of what ArtScene is about. 

“We like to look at places that are usual places where you see artwork, such as galleries, and then the organizations that are committed to making sure that the arts are a part of their venue, including churches, and Bennie’s Cleaners, which is not a usual suspect for artwork.”

Along with spas, gardens, restaurants, bars and other locations, conventional or otherwise, throughout the area, hosting a wide diversity of art in all media.

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
Lenae Weichel shows where pictures will be strung on wires for ArtScene

Ted Simmering is showing his work along with many others in a group exhibition called “Event Horizon” at The Allegory Project art gallery. He says the Spring ArtScene and its fall counterpart are wonderful platforms for the area’s artists.

“The two ArtScenes are the most inclusive visual arts events in Rockford. This is one time that anybody that wants to get on stage with their work can do it and show it to the whole community.”

Fiber artist Ellyn Ahmer is in the same show.  Ahmer says she likes that the low- key nature of the event allows for a more interactive experience.

“I enjoy the opportunity of ArtScene to get to know people – both those who are the artists, and also the folks who actually come to the various venues – and have conversations, whether it’s about art or it’s about the weather.”

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
Kari McDonald, Anne O'Keefe and Ted Simmering

O’Keefe says that’s part of the Arts Council’s intent.  She says too often people in a gallery feel they’ll be pressured to buy something, and miss out on getting to know the artists – and the art - in their community. 

“One of the things that is freeing about ArtScene is, even if people aren’t ready to make a purchase, or they are not sure, they’re just building a relationship with the artist or actually building a relationship with a piece that resonates with them.”

Without any obligation.  Of course, some will decide to buy something.  Printmaker Kari McDonald is showing at The Rockford Roasting Company coffee bar. She says that’s another incentive Spring ArtScene has for the artist.

“The winter months in the Midwest can be really tough, because it’s cold, and you really don’t feel like doing anything.  So it’s really nice to have that deadline in the spring.  And that’s exciting for the artists and the patrons, too.”

O’Keefe says in the end, while ArtScene may lead to an increase in art purchases, there's a greater impact:  the public can see that artists are a valuable part of the community; and that the arts are, as the Arts Council puts it, "for everyone."

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