109 North Walnut

Champaign, IL

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Sporadic postings of updates and features that might interest our customers.

Showing Artwork at Kopi

By cafekopi42667224, Jul 21 2017 04:08AM

This is a condensed version of an article originally written for Smile Politely.

I honestly can’t remember when we began to show local artwork, but I do recall when we had the professional picture rail installed because the first artist we scheduled had two or three pieces composed of heavy ceramic tile, testing its weight limitations. Since at least that year (2001), we have hosted shows every 6-8 weeks by area artists and photographers. What a treat to have so many talented people wanting to display their work to the public.

Among the challenges of showing artwork at a café is that the long operating hours pose a problem of hanging pictures around seated customers. It’s intrusive to hover over patrons with a ladder, so the alternative is hanging a show when we’re closed, after midnight. Mostly, I’ve done it myself over the years, or paid employees. Another difficulty is the logistics of coordinating three incoming artists with three outgoing, not to mention the numerous customer queries about purchasing a piece. For interested curators, this sounded like a fun experience: getting to connect with artists, seeing original works, and maybe including the position on a resumé. It eventually wound up being more work than expected, so the duties reverted to the owner.

For many years, we didn’t take a commission on sales. I always felt the pieces were on loan from the artist and considered them part of the décor. The layout and feel of the original (orange) room has remained the same for almost 25 years, yet the artwork changes it slightly for the regulars. In recent years, I’ve suggested that curators take a commission as incentive to promote the new shows on behalf of the artists.

Last year I changed this curating model dramatically after growing tired of hanging art at 3:00 a.m. or training others to do it. Instead of having artist shows now, we accept a single piece from each artist and hang it when the wall space isn’t adjacent to an occupied table. As a piece sells, it’s easily replaced with another from the same artist, or from a different one. Although patrons cannot expect a consistent style or theme, I find it refreshing to have pieces of varying sizes, style, mediums, and prices. There is always something for everyone, and I would estimate that we have sold an average of one piece a week since we began the new format.

Despite fifteen solid years of amassing a network of artists, fresh faces are always needed. If you make art or photography (or know someone who does), please contact us by email, for the information packet. We’d love to see what you can do.

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