A biannual gallery walk that was put on pause in 2020 due to the pandemic returned to Rockford this past Friday and Saturday.
Spectators traveled from one venue to another during this year’s Spring ArtScene. The event allowed participants to view and purchase artists’ works.
Gerrie Gustafson was hanging out at J.R. Kortman Center for Design on Saturday but she said this wasn’t her first stop. She started out by visiting the home of Nancie King Mertz.
“And she does pastels, and they are just magnificent scenery, but scenery like you've never -- I mean it's just very different,” she explained, “from what you think of is landscape. And the house is extraordinary.”
She said she also stopped by Veterans Memorial Hall and Museum to see the quilts.
Gustafson said she appreciates art, but she can’t ingest it over the internet and said it’s great to be out again.
Visual artist Andrew Harlan displayed his work at the design center. He said last year was challenging for him.
“Honestly, it was really slow because I'm a freelance artist too. I do a lot of commission-based work,” Harlan said. “And it just totally slowed down for a long time. So, I just had to, you know, keep making work, and just believing in myself.”
He asked other artists to continue to create despite the pandemic.
“And it's really artists who change the world and progress things,” he added. “So, to artists ‘keep making, start having shows -- figuring out how to make it work with COVID. And let's move forward.’”
Iga Puchalska is the co-owner of New Genres Art Space. She said it was great to be back supporting her artist friends.
"And, you know, in a small city like this, artists are very important to each other in each other's creation, each other's lives," she said. "So, you know, it's been tough being so separated from everybody."
Bounsay Pipathsouk is a charcoal artist from Laos. He displayed his work in a space located on 304 N. Main St. He explained how 2020 inspired him to do a drawing based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
“You know, it’s really needed for today's environment," he added. "And so, I need to bring up all different races of people -- Black and white, young and old – that’s everybody included inside.”
The people in the background of the drawing include Lizzo, Michael Jackson and even Tiger Woods. Pipathsouk added that he included some of his neighbors as well.
Resident Anthony Oliver was astonished by Pipathsouk’s work. He said he’s amazed how the latter's drawings capture all cultures so eloquently.
“I do love the Martin Luther King one there as well. He's got Rihanna and Beyonce,” he noted. “So, it seems like it's a lot of -- it's almost like very -- you got pop culture somewhat, in a sense. You have like the presidency here as far as Kennedy's wife. It's very interesting. I do want to know what inspires him to pick these certain people here.”
Oliver said the eyes in some images caught his attention. They seemed to look at viewers even when those observers stood at different angles. He also called Pipathsouk’s work “soft-toned.”
The event takes place in the Spring and Fall and is hosted by The Rockford Area Arts Council.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.