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Jelani Day art removal brings strong emotions to Normal Council chambers – WGLT

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A group of emotional public commenters chastised the Normal Town Council during its regular meeting Monday — as well as during an outdoor rally preceding that meeting — about the town’s controversial removal of an artwork honoring Jelani Day, an ISU graduate student whose death police continue to investigate.

“The taking down of a mural: Who was engaged in that conversation and those decisions, and why was there such urgency?” commenter Marcos Mendez asked the council.

He said town leaders needed to better focus on boosting community engagement, to avoid the anger this situation has wrought.

The Day portrait, created by an artist who remains anonymous, was posted sometime between Sept. 27 and 28 on the exterior of 104 E. Beaufort, a town-owned building near Uptown Circle. Town officials removed it Sept. 29, citing town rules for posting on public buildings, and promising to relocate the poster.

Jelani Day portrait

Jake Fogal

The Jelani Day portrait was returned for temporary display Monday morning, within a window at 104 Beaufort St. It’s expected to be placed at ISU.

However, it was returned for temporary display Monday morning, inside that building, visible through a sidewalk-facing window. It’s expected to be moved to an ISU location.

On Sept. 23, authorities identified Day’s remains, three weeks after discovering the body near Peru, Ill. He’d been missing since Aug. 24, and his death remains under investigation.

The race of Day, a Black man studying speech pathology at ISU, has repeatedly been a focus in this case. His mother Carmen Bolden Day, and other supporters, criticized a lack of police and media focus since he was reported missing — attributing that to him being a Black man. And, on Monday, many commenters told the council they didn’t believe the portrait of Day would have been removed had he been white.

The Bloomington-Normal Democratic Socialists organized the “Tell Normal: Jelani Day Matters” rally Monday before the council meeting.

Ann Rountree, a member of that group’s Afro-Socialist caucus, later addressed the council. She’s the mother of 8-year-old Rica Rountree, whose father’s girlfriend was convicted of the Normal girl’s 2019 murder.

Rountree said she empathizes with the pain Bolden Day most be feeling — trying to have Jelani be seen, and not forgotten.

“The least we could have done was left his face outside. A memory is all she asked, and y’all couldn’t even do that much. It’s very disappointing,” said Rountree.

Mendez, another commenter, lamented that as far back as 2016, as part of Normal’s long term Vision 2040 plan, some town conversations were “about Black and brown people not feeling safe in this community.” Yet now, the town finds itself in this situation of those very groups feeling unheard, he said.

Mendez and Rountree joined about 12 others addressing the council. Dozens more filled the chamber’s seats, applauding frequently throughout the public comments’ period.

Many of the speakers found themselves swearing in anger — saying the art’s removal illustrated the concerns of Black Americans being invisible, and treated as second-class citizens, both among concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM support was evidenced with masks, signs and Tshirts throughout the crowd.

“We understand in moments like this, emotions are very high, and for some people it’s easy to get caught in the moment,” said Normal council member Chemberly Cummings, a Black woman who is the only nonwhite seated member. She called Day’s death and the investigation surrounding his death heartbreaking. But she said the Normal worker who removed the artwork from the public building was just doing his job.

“Let’s not politicize this in order to point fingers, and create a platform,” she said, urging the crowd to instead directly support Day’s mother.

Cummings said Illinois State University officials are working with Bolden Day to determine her wishes for the portrait’s permanent home. If the family does choose to allow the art to be displayed, Cummings said she’d like to see it shown at ISU’s new multicultural center.

The majority of public comments Monday veered into an airing of grievances against the Bloomington Police and other law enforcement agencies’ handling of the Day investigation. The lack of federal assistance early on drew criticism, as national media was focused on the Wyoming death of a young, white female hiker, Gabby Petito.

Cummings responded to commenters’ criticism of Normal’s lack of attention to the investigation by clarifying that because Day lived in Bloomington, Normal Police did not handle the case.

“How you get justice is by making sure you are asking the right questions to the right departments,” she said. “The best way to get answers is to get active in the right way — use our energy in the best way possible,” she said.

Mayor’s response

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said after Monday’s meeting that town leaders knew the decision to take down the Jelani Day art would be unpopular, but because it was displayed on the outside of the public building, allowing it to stay posted could set a broad precedent.

Chris Koos JelaniDay_Protest_Bollinger57.jpg

Emily Bollinger

Normal Mayor Chris Koos during Monday’s meeting.

“If you allow one (expression on that outside wall), then you’ve got to allow every one. And we were concerned about that,” he said, noting extremists also might be drawn to the spot and demand equal space.

“There was certainly never intent to offend anybody. Obviously, we did, and I’ll apologize for that publicly,” he said. Koos said town leaders always wanted to get the artwork back in public view as soon as possible.

Angelique Racki, executive director of the Bloomington-based BCAI Cultural Arts & Humanities, commented Monday as well. She said the BCAI student body is predominantly Black, Latinos and other minorities. Those students have watched how Normal officials took down the Day art.

“This doesn’t just affect the college demographic. This is bleeding into our babies, because they are seeing this news story,” she said, of the middle-schoolers and teens she knows following this story. “These are the messages they are getting.”

In a Facebook post on Normal’s page Monday afternoon, town officials said they’d decided to create a temporary display in solidarity with Monday’s rally, placing the portrait that morning inside a streetfront window, by the Uptown Circle: “In support of this gathering, the Town is placing the Jelani Day Tribute piece in the window of 104 E. Beaufort. The tribute has been respectfully preserved with framed plexiglass. This is a temporary display until the Tribute can be transferred to Illinois State.”

Several commenters said that decision was too little too late. But Koos said the plan always was to find a way to display the art.

At the start of Monday’s meeting’s public comments, the mayor asked people not to applaud, nor shout. But, that was met with group chants of “Black Lives Matter. Jelani’s Life Matters. Black Lives Matter.”

During comments, civility disappeared — with coarse language thrown around, and several people randomly shouting from the council chambers.

After the meeting, Koos explained his decision to proceed in that setting.

“Normally we wouldn’t allow that to happen at our meeting. But there was a lot of pent-up frustration, and anger, and I thought, ‘Let’s just get it out there,'” said Koos.

Community, campus groups organize rally

Many of those who attended the start of Monday’s Town Council meeting rallied before the session near the Uptown Circle.

One of the speakers was Djimon Lewis, an ISU student and member of ISU’s Black Communication Association. He listed off nearly a dozen issues with the police investigation of Day’s disappearance, including the 19 days it took to positively identify his body.

“For context, they (Town of Normal) removed that mural in three days. Less time elapsed from the time that mural was up to its taken down then it took to find Jelani’s body. That’s sick,” Lewis said.

Lewis also said statistics show Black men in Bloomington-Normal are more likely to be harrassed by police than white people. WGLT recently reported on a state study showing Black motorists and pedestrians were 4.4 times more likely than whites to be pulled over by Normal Police.

Another member of the Black Communication Association, Donovan Hill, described himself as a concerned student — not only for his safety, but for everyone surrounding him.

JelaniDay_Protest_Bollinger32.jpg

Emily Bollinger

Djimon Lewis with the Afro-Socialists and the Black Communication Association speaks at Monday’s demonstration in Uptown Normal.

“I am concerned for myself, for my friends, for my family, for my colleagues and for the people in this town,” said Hill. “If this is the normal that the town of Normal is looking for to keep pushing forward as weeks go by then it’s not the type of Normal that I want to live in. This is not the status quo that I want.”

Lewis connected the recent events with the fall 2020 protests surrounding ISU Athletics, where former athletics director Larry Lyons faced criticism for his “All Redbird Lives Matter” comment. That led to the department’s new action plan to address racial equity, among other changes.

“Now we have Jelani Day. Why would we as a community put up a mural in the middle of town of someone that lived in this town, and have to move it to the same campus that is racist to us in the same town that is racist to us?” Lewis asked the crowd, resulting in applause.

Lewis fought tears as he spoke about how Black people have been treated in this country. Lewis expressed that peace and justice will be attained by any means necessary.

After the remarks, the group began its march to City Hall in waving Black Lives Matter flags and shouting in peaceful protest.

Council OKs Silver Oak Estates plan, water treatment contracts 

Also at Monday’s council meeting, the council voted on two unrelated matters as part of its consent agenda: water treatment chemical contracts, and a final plat for an eastside subdivision addition.

The council approved annual contracts with several vendors, to cover about $700,000 in water treatment chemicals.

That’s an estimated 17.5% increase over the current contract pricing. The town spent about $585,000 on the same chemicals over the past calendar year, according to John Burkhart, Normal water director. The town budgets from its water fund, and actual costs depend on how much of each chemical gets used during the contract period.

The council also voted to conditionally approve the final plat for the first addition to an east side subdivision: Silver Oak Estates. The area sits east of the Vineyards Subdivision, which is southeast of Raab and Airport roads. The council previously approved the preliminary subdivision plan for the overall Vineyards neighborhood.

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Moose Jaw Art Guild meets to discuss its upcoming MJMAG exhibition – moosejawtoday.com

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The Moose Jaw Art Guild is excited for their 54th Christmas exhibition at the Museum & Art Gallery

Led by President Karen Walpole, ten members of Moose Jaw’s Art Guild gathered for only the second time in 18 months to discuss their upcoming exhibition. The forms necessary for submission were distributed, and everyone chatted about how their works were progressing.

The theme for this year is “Looking Out My Window,” to be interpreted by the artist. A variety of mediums are encouraged, including drawings, pastels, watercolours, and sculptures.

Many of the works displayed in MJMAG’s lobby will be for sale. The exhibition will open on Nov. 12th, and continue until Jan. 9th of next year. 

Karen Walpole noted that she is “always excited” to share some of the Art Guild’s venerable history, particularly in regards to its role in the founding of MJMAG. She says that, “Back in 1963, the City of Moose Jaw asked what was then the Moose Jaw Fine Arts Guild to comment on their plan to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday.” 

The Guild took that chance to strongly endorse and lobby for a “Cultural Centre” in Crescent Park near the Public Library. The Moose Jaw Art Museum opened in 1967, and the Art Guild has had an annual exhibition there ever since. 

Jennifer McRorie, MJMAG’s current curator and director, confirms that the Art Guild was “instrumental in getting the art museum established.” She adds that, “In 2017 we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and so we actually presented an exhibition from our permanent collection that was the result of 50 years of collecting the work of Moose Jaw artists.”

The Guild itself was established on a cold February night in 1929, after a presentation by influential Saskatchewan artists Vaughan Grayson and Barbara Barber. That night, the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan was voted into existence. In 1957 it became the Moose Jaw Fine Art Guild, and in 1984 it achieved its current form as the Moose Jaw Art Guild. 

This year’s exhibition comes on the heels, obviously, of the enormous disruption of the global pandemic. Nevertheless, the Guild endures, and is always open to new members. Walpole sincerely emphasizes that one purpose of their showings is to, “provide encouragement and an introduction to many of us that want to try our artistic hands, but don’t know where to start.”

Art is about expression, moving beyond the limitations of language to convey emotion in a subjective, yet direct way. Although it is not possible to control exactly how one’s art is perceived, this should not be a barrier. The main thing, Walpole says, is “to have the confidence to at least attempt an art form of some kind.”

More information about the Art Guild, its meetings, and how to join can be found on their Facebook page.

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Knitting for Guelph's Art Not Shame: 3 things to know about the organization and fundraiser – GuelphMercury.com

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Knitting for Guelph’s Art Not Shame: 3 things to know about the organization and fundraiser  GuelphMercury.com



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So you want my arts job: Art Installer – ArtsHub

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A rare opportunity saw Andrew Hawley join the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as a casual art handler after graduating from his BFA in Drawing at RMIT in 2003.

Eighteen years later, he is now the Collection and Exhibition Preparator at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), known for their eccentric and challenging exhibitions, and undoubtedly, one of the most exciting environments in which to work in art installations, storage, and exhibition preparations.

He also holds a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from the University of Melbourne, and has worked across ACMI, the Victorian Arts Centre, ExhibitOne, POD Museum and Art services, and the Melbourne Immigration Museum.

From Ron Meuck’s 10 metre infant sculpture to Ai Weiwei’s White House (2015) in Mona’s Siloam, Hawley and his colleagues are the answer to your question: ‘But how did they manage to get it there?’

Here, Hawley shares the excitement of working on high-profile exhibitions and discusses the skills you would need to pursue this challenging but rewarding profession.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?

In a nutshell; I prepare artwork and other culturally significant material for storage, exhibition and loan, and assist with exhibition/display installation. My role is quite varied but I spend most of my time at our off-site collection store where I design, construct and fit out custom packing units for artworks. These vary from timber crates and travel frames to archival board boxes, archival tubes for rolled works and the occasional solander box. I also ensure artwork is clean and display ready. 

I organise and maintain the off-site collection storage area which involves a lot of 3D Tetris. I work closely with colleagues including registrars, a conservator, a mount maker and several other very highly skilled art handler/technicians as well as a wider team of kinetic artwork and time based media technicians.

I assist with exhibition installation/deinstallation and collection changeover at the museum and some external locations during festivals.

I’m also a qualified paper conservator so I undertake some conservation assessments and treatments when required.

Read: So you want my arts job: Museum Program Producer

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR CAREER?

I finished a fine art degree in 2003 and was looking for something outside the hospitality industry and inside the museum/gallery industry. Luckily, a regular customer at one of the venues I worked in (as a chef/cook), let word slip that the National Gallery of Victoria were hiring casual art handlers to prepare to move into the refurbished premises at St Kilda Road. I got the boss’ details, wrote an application letter, attended a job interview and somehow was successful, despite no prior experience.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE MOST IN YOUR JOB?

Unique challenges and a reliance on lateral thinking for solutions – something I experience almost every day. I also have great colleagues with whom I liaise about all aspects of the job. We learn from each others’ creative perspectives.

I love the excitement of a large or high profile exhibition, including engagement with external or international artists and curators, trying to help realise a vision that may or may not be clear in everybody’s mind. I equally love the calm and solitude of a collection store and the fact that I work so closely with museum objects on a daily basis. If I have a bad day, looking at an ancient Egyptian mummified cat or some 2,000 year old bronze knife coins is very soothing. 

IN AN INTERVIEW FOR YOUR JOB, WHAT SKILLS AND QUALITIES WOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

Similar institutional experience in a similar capacity (eg. art handling, art packing) would be a must. It takes many years to attune yourself to the level of care required around culturally significant objects and irreplaceable artworks.

Other qualifiers would include:

  • A strong work ethic
  • An ability to handle multiple projects with strict deadlines
  • The ability to delegate fun jobs
  • The ability to undertake monotonous or tedious jobs
  • Strong, clear communication
  • Patience
  • Physically fit and able

The ability to look outside oneself and one’s own experience for solutions. It’s a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of position and a good Jack should know when they need to call on a master of something.

Someone who prefers order and neatness in their professional life. I’m in no way the neatest person in my private life but organising a storage area that keeps artwork safe and secure requires a high degree of attention to detail.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE INSTALLATION EXPERIENCES/PROJECTS THAT YOU’VE WORKED ON?

There’s been a lot over the years – I’ve done everything from helping carry and install a 10 metre silicon sculpture of an infant (Ron Mueck) to hanging iconic works from Picasso, Munch or Tom Roberts. From installing 100 tiny neolithic arrow/spear heads in one showcase to helping build a large, imperial Chinese house framework on glass balls (Ai Weiwei), and from installing famous AFL players’ jerseys in a sports museum (MCG/Australian Sports Museum) to hanging stills from Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey (ACMI).

It’s hard to pick one moment from one project. In recent times, it’s probably been the preparatory work and final install of big MONA shows like On the Origins of Art, The Museum of Everything and our recent Monanisms 2021 collection based exhibition.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING HAPPENING IN YOUR SECTOR AT THE MOMENT?

We’re still operating and I still enjoy my job.

Read: So you want my arts job: Theatre Technician

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