Shuckin' Awesome: Over 30 artists featured at Shirley art market
Many art shows were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, robbing a lot of artists of both community and income. In August 2020, a dedicated group of artists in central Illinois came together to put on their own shows. They call themselves Artists of the Corn.
Artists of the Corn just hosted its latest show Saturday and Sunday at Funk Farms Premium Beef in Shirley, called Shuckin’ Awesome Holiday Art Market, which is its 10th show overall.
“I love the idea that we are an artists-for-artists organizing group," said co-organizer and artist Sarah Fleming.
After attending the Shuckin’ Awesome Holiday Art Market, Fleming said she wants young rural artists to be encouraged and see themselves in the art.
“We're promoting Midwestern artists in a very Midwestern space," Fleming said.
The market featured many different types of art, including glass blowing, ceramics, painting, and more. All 30-plus artists at the market were invite-only.
One of the artists, Kim Caisse, came all the way from Hannibal, Missouri, to showcase her artwork.
“For me, it's nice that I can find some way to use the skills that I have to pay my bills,” said Caisse. “More important than that is that you find that your work touches people, and you get to see their reaction. You get to see that it's important to them.”
Another artist at the market was Deana Bada Maloney, who hand-paints unique ceramic animals with ink. Maloney said artists are the purveyors of inspiration.
“I just think that it is such a gift to be able to inspire the community,” she said.
Maloney said she finds the act of making art to be very peaceful, despite the stress of preparing for a market like this.
“The challenge is always time, having enough time to make everything you want, and you never will,” said Maloney. “I've tried to let go of my anxiousness of wanting to have enough stuff.”
Caisse shares Maloney’s stress in preparing for an art market.
“It's a lot of running around the house, scratching your head and going, ‘What am I doing?’” said Caisse, adding when she really gets herself parked in place, the process becomes fun and exciting.
Co-organizer Fleming said the idea of this art market was to bring people together to enjoy a weekend of supporting local art and small businesses. The Shuckin’ Awesome Holiday Art Market was only one part of a larger weekend.
Ten locations spread out along historic Route 66 were part of the Artists of the Corn’s Have Yourself a Funky Little Weekend. From Shirley to Atlanta in Logan County, visitors could shop at local boutiques, wander museums, enjoy food, and support local artists.
Glassblower and co-organizer Brock Eddleman said their first art show at Funk Farms Premium Beef was so fantastic that the Artists of the Corn wanted to do more.
“[Fleming] had [her] idea to start to include local businesses out in the area and see if we could kind of synergize and turn it into something even bigger for the area,” said Eddleman.
The golden cob
Part of what makes the Shuckin’ Awesome Holiday Art Market unique, said Eddleman, is the notorious Golden Cob Award.
Eddleman said all the artists go around the art market and vote for the artist that moved them the most, had the most visual impact, was the most exciting, or just their favorite. The process is all very “hush-hush."
On Saturday after all the patrons left, the artists gathered to see who won the Golden Cob Award. The winner from the previous year, Maloney, had been commissioned to make the Golden Cob Award trophy.
“The previous winner unveils their Golden Cob, and we announce who the winner is,” said Eddleman. The winner this year was ceramicist Cory McCrory of Sandwich.
“Everyone cries. Everyone cheers,” said Fleming.
The artists and co-organizers said they love inspiring and taking inspiration from others at the art market.
“It's a great group of people, and a great setting that I just find a lot of inspiration from," Eddleman said.
Fleming added: “You feel it when you walk in the room. Everybody really appreciates each other, and are happy to be there.” Art is more than just what is in galleries, said Fleming. “Art is a job.”
The job of being an artist is important to both art patrons and artists themselves.
“I never would have guessed in a million years that my art would be so important to someone. So you just have to get out there and see what happens, and it's exciting,” said Caisse.
Eddleman said Artists of the Corn have plans to continue art markets in the future, so art-lovers should be on the lookout for bad corn puns — and more art.