New Music Series at the State Museum

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The Illinois State Museum, in partnership with singer-songwriter/folk musician Chris Vallillo, will be presenting a new concert series titled Music at the Museum.  The series will present a wide range of roots and acoustic music that is representative of the rich heritage and culture of the Midwest from folk to blues, original to traditional, and everything in between. The Music at the Museum series will take place monthly in the ISM Auditorium in Springfield.

For the past 24 years, Chris Vallillo has worked in partnership with the Illinois State Museum system in producing the Hickory Ridge Concert Series at the Dickson Mounds Museum near Lewistown in Fulton Co. “Our vision here is to create a similar style concert program featuring a higher level of artist than I can present at Dickson Mounds” said Vallillo.  “Springfield is a great arts community and the Illinois State Museum is the perfect place to take things up a level.”

The Music at the Museum concerts will take place the second Thursday of each month throughout the year. ISM Director Mike Wiant is delighted for the chance to bring live performances back to the museum. “This museum isn’t just a storage facility for artifacts; it’s a living, breathing, center of learning and culture that represents everything this region has to offer, and we want to make that available to everyone,” Wiant said.

The official kickoff event for the Music at the Museum concert series will be Thursday, May, 11 at 7:00 p.m. with a double-billing featuring Chris Vallillo, along with the Burr Oak String Band. Vallillo has long been considered Illinois’ “prairie poet singer/songwriter” and is a highly accomplished guitarist on finger-style and bottleneck slide guitars.  The Burr Oak String Band members are masters of a variety of instruments and styles, including old-time, raggy blues, bluegrass, and folk.

“The idea is to start off with a great show to introduce folks to the series” said Vallillo.  “And we’ve got an excellent lineup of acts to kick things off with.”

Other upcoming acts for 2017 include the Chicago blues duo Felisko and Nolden, world musicians Patchouli, songwriter Katie Dahl, and the old-time duo The Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers. Check the full 2017 concert schedule at www.museumconcerts.com.

Concert admission is $10.00 for adults and $8.00 for Illinois State Museum Society members and children under 12. There will be a variety of desserts and drinks available at the break during each concert. For additional information call the Museum at 217-782-7386.

“Pembroke” Author to Speak

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On Wednesday, May 10, author Dave Baron will present stories from his book Pembroke: A Rural, Black Community on the Illinois Dunes, which chronicles the history of Pembroke Township, 65 miles south of Chicago.

Baron’s book profiles a number of the colorful, longtime residents of Pembroke and considers what has enabled Pembroke to survive despite a lack of economic opportunities. Baron’s Pembroke was recently honored by the Illinois State Historical Society and given their Award of Superior Achievement.

This free program takes place at 7:00 p.m. in the Illinois State Museum’s Thorne Deuel Auditorium as part of the Paul Mickey Science Series. Each month, the Mickey Science Series features a different speaker and topic. For additional information, email events@illinoisstatemuseum.org or phone 217-782-5949.

Pinball and Imagist Exhibit to Open in May

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Courtesy Ethan D. Ecole

On May 20, the Illinois State Museum will proudy open Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago an interactive exhibition examining the intertwined history of two of Chicago’s greatest exports: pinball and imagist painting.

Most of the world’s finest pinball machines were made in Chicago’s North Side factories. As those machines reached the apex of pictorial and engineering ingenuity, the artists now known as the Imagists and the Hairy Who were finding their unique visual style with inspiration from many vernacular sources including the arcades and Riverview Park. Pinball provided inspiration with its high contrast coloration, absurd juxtapositions, and ultra-flat forms. Pinball was but one inspiration for these artists, along with the city’s many-colored storefronts, campy product ads, and hand-painted and neon commercial signs. The exhibition contains photographs of Chicago in those years, as recorded by some of these same artists.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to play pinball on Chicago-built pinball machines alongside paintings, sculptures and prints inspired by them, including works by Roger Brown, Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum and Ray Yoshida. The exhibition also features original works by Constantino Mitchell a long time pinball artist.

Kings and Queens is organized by the Elmhurst Art Museum Director Jenny Gibbs and curated by New York’s Dan Nadel. It will be on display at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield from May 20 – August 11, 2017.

Member Reception and Opening

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Illinois State Museum Society members gathered in the art galleries last night to view the new exhibition Michiko Itatani: Celestial Visions which opens to the public on March 25 and to converse with curator Doug Stapleton about the works on exhibit in Just Good Art: The Chuck Thurow Gift.

Just Good Art opened in February and features works newly donated to the collection by Chicago collector and arts advocate Chuck Thurow. Of the 56 Illinois artists represented in the gift, 34 are new to the Museum’s collections. Just Good Art is open through May 8.

Michiko Itatani is one of Chicago’s most well-respected contemporary artists. Celestial Visions features new acquisitions of drawings and prints alongside installation-based and heroically scaled figurative paintings from the Museum’s Fine Art Collection. This exhibition will be open through June 5.

To learn how you can become a member and receive invitations to exclusive events, discounts on programs, and members-only communications, visit our website.

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“Just Good Art” Installation

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On February 4, the Illinois State Museum will open Just Good Art: The Chuck Thurow Gift. This exhibition will feature works from the 2016 gift of over 100 contemporary artworks from Chuck Thurow, former director of the Hyde Park Art Center. You can learn more about the gift and some of the works here. The photos below are behind-the-scenes shots of the installation. Visit the Museum on through May 7 to see the exhibition.

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Photos courtesy Chris Young.

Learning with Objects

Providing programs that complement and enhance classroom learning is one of the many important roles of the Museum. Last month, Dr. Michael Wiant presented a program on Native American life to more than 100 second-grade students in Chatham. The students had been studying how Native Americans survived in their environment. Dr. Wiant illustrated his presentation with animal skins, casts of tracks, artifacts, and a mastodon molar. The students sent Dr. Wiant thank you notes, which showed that in addition to enjoying the program, they were also paying close attention. We couldn’t resist sharing a few here.

Marshall Fields Holiday Exhibit

A nostalgic collection of Marshall Field’s Christmas decorations is on display in the State Museum lobby. It includes toys, ornaments, and postcards. The crown jewels of the collection are Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly. The characters were introduced in 1945 and were often seen at the top of the Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room as well as other locations in the store.

Do you remember Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly? What is your favorite Marshall Fields Christmas memory?