Saturday, October 07, 2006

How to start a weekend in a small, Midwestern town

By going to a reception for the opening of a show. To be precise, the opening of a show of collages and mixed media, by one of our local artists.

The artist is Harlow Blum
Harlow in profile
retired professor of art at Monmouth College, out here in Western IL.

My parents and I received our invitations in the mail a couple of weeks ago -- the folks are out of town, or they'd have attended the event with me, but since they couldn't make it, I decided to accompany my friend Jeanne and her husband Gary (also a retired Monmouth faculty member) for the drive (25 minutes) and the gala.

The reception (and show) was at Q's Cafe in downtown Galesburg, and, when we arrived, there was already a modest crowd A Modest Crowd

I worked my way down the wall, looking closely at my former instructor's works, and then turned to examine the crowd again. Crowd, from the back of the room
Most of them seemed to be enjoying each other's company and conversation... it was the usual cocktail party chatter, with a little extra.

I spoke with a couple (the aunt and uncle of my bestest childhood friend) who had just moved to Galesburg from Oregon, and they were surprised to find that the work Harlow displayed here was the sort of thing they liked, the sort of thing they would look for "back home out there". They were even considering buying a couple of Harlow's works as gifts for family out there.

The funny thing is, I wasn't surprised by their surprise. We, here, in the sticks, have been hearing all our lives how we are the ignorant, provincial, redneck, more-churches-than-bars districts (aka the flyover states). I've lived all over the country, now, and never did understand why people let themselves believe the things others tell them about other parts of the country (except the hippie-lands out west. tee hee). All preconceptions ever do is make it harder to make friends.

But I digress. The reception.

My high-school-art-teacher-now-bestest-friend Pat was there, looking over the works Pat, Gary, & Harlow's work
and enjoying the subtle way Harlow blended photographs with found objects such as cork, stone, cotton fluff, and the like, to enhance the landscapes/seascapes the camera presented. We chatted briefly, but neither of us could hear particularly well over the din, and, besides, she and her husband were on a date... wink wink.

Anyway, Harlow's wife, Lila, made sure there was plenty to nosh on while everybody enjoyed the art and conversation Harlow's reception- Lila & the Food
but the crowd was either bigger than anticipated, or a bunch of lushes (think the former, not the latter), because the merlot ran dry after only an hour or so. There were lots of Monmouth people there -- connected with the established arts community Lupe & DiFucchias (Mike DiFucchia and his wife, plus Lupe Smith, are members the Buchanan Center for the Arts board, as well as Old Friends Talk Arts, and other fine and performing arts groups in the area).

The reception was multi-generational, to boot. Dick Kieft & Friend but skewed toward Monmouth College faculty, tenured and retired...Jerry, Gary, et al Mostly the latter.

I kept myself sane by hiding behind the camera. Lila & Camera I wasn't the only one. Lila was documenting it, in little bits here and there (I hope she didn't point her camera at me, or she'll be paying to replace the poor machine. I have that effect).

I've never been a big fan of crowds, but I attend these things, first and foremost because my friends deserve support (and I do count Harlow as a friend, now that we're both out of academia and into the community). Second, I go out because I want to stay at home and become a hermit, but that just feeds my mental problems. And we don't feed the monsters. But third, I go to these things because I can. Just because I live in a little bitty town in the midst of the corn and soybeans doesn't mean I'm isolated from civilization. This region has a lot going for it, and if I don't go, and everybody else takes the same Idawanna attitude, we lose it all, and become exactly what people think we are... provincial cow towns.

So I guess my digression wasn't a digression. It was just an advertisement in the middle of the show. A word from our sponsor: Cow Towns. Where you find the niftiest things, and the nicest people. moo.

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