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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

Heartland Community College art exhibit helps students discover ‘A Sense of Place’

Artist Douglas Johnson's exhibit "A Sense of Place" includes paintings of familiar places such as the Clay Dooley building, seen here.
Douglas Johnson
Artist Douglas Johnson's exhibit "A Sense of Place" includes paintings of familiar places such as the Clay Dooley building, seen here.

Works by local painter Douglas C. Johnson are on display at Heartland Community College until Dec. 15. And on Tuesday, the Joe McCauley Gallery at Heartland will host an artist reception as Johnson’s exhibit highlighting central Illinois landscapes enters its final weeks.

Curator and Heartland Community College associate dean of liberal arts and sciences Carol Hahn says that a major goal of the campus’ Joe McCauley Gallery is to engage students with art and get them to think about it. In addition to catering to students, the public is invited to visit the gallery any time the college is open.

“That’s one of my favorite parts, when the two audiences come together—the outside art audience with the student audience,” Hahn said. “The people who make the journey and find us, they are the art lovers and they come in and discover this jewelbox gallery with a fantastic show. It’s a surprise for them.”

Titled “A Sense of Place,” the exhibition is an array of local landscapes familiar to Heartland Community College students who grew up in the area. Hahn’s vision for the show was very open. “Honestly, I just knew I wanted to show Doug’s work,” she said. “I thought his paintings would be a great fit for the gallery.”

As one of four solo shows for the artist this year, Johnson, who also directs the McLean County Arts Center, said he picked some works he might not have ordinarily shown, with the local connection in mind.

“I think it’s really important that people experience art as being something that’s real to them," Johnson said. "By choosing things that are easily identifiable to be part of the show, they can see that art is tangible.”

For example, Johnson selected a painting of a white house in LeRoy that he hasn’t shown in a long time. A student touring the gallery—which was previously a kiln room and across the hall from the painting studio where Johnson teaches part-time—said she drives by the house every day. Additional scenes feature the Carlock grain elevator and Clay Dooley and Wash House buildings in Bloomington.

“There’s something really special about saying that’s part of my life and part of art,” Johnson said. “I can build that connection.”

“A Sense of Place” is just the second exhibition to take place at Heartland Community College since the pandemic began. Hahn said that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The gallery gives us a place to be together,” she said. “It’s a place to be quiet and think about things—in this case, coming into our own community and thinking about how beautiful it is and how our own experience is significant and transcendent. We might think we live in an ordinary place but it’s actually really wonderful. This is a quiet place where we can appreciate that.”

“A Sense of Place” featuring works by Douglas Johnson is on view at the Joe McCauley Gallery at Heartland Community College through Dec. 15. An artist reception takes place Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 4 p.m. and is free for students and the general public.

The Joe McCauley Gallery is located on Heartland Community College’s campus in the Instructional Commons Building, room 2507. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on days the college is open. Appointments can be made upon request. For more information, visit Heartland's website.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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