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'Classic works': Growmark selling its art collection to private buyers

Art collectors in central Illinois have a rare opportunity. The agriculture firm Growmark is selling off its art collection — more than 60 works that appraisers have valued at over $90,000.

“The '80s was a really large boom for businesses and companies to really start serious collecting. That was a really great movement. I'm kind of trying to help bring that back a little bit here in the new century,” said Matt Erickson of the Come Together space in downtown Bloomington.

Erickson is offering private showings to prospective buyers. He said Growmark did a great thing in patronizing and exhibiting Illinois and regional artists for more than 40 years.

Bloomington artist Jeff Little's 'Coltrane Creek' watercolor is one of the 60 plus works from the Growmark collection being sold to private buyers.
Matt Erickson
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Bloomington artist Jeff Little is among the creators whose works Growmark is selling.
Bloomington artist Jeff Little's 'Coltrane Creek' watercolor is one of the 60 plus works from the Growmark collection being sold to private buyers.

"Eventually, thousands of people are seeing it, enjoying it every day through the week and got their time with it. Now we have a new life for the art, and it can go into people's homes," said Erickson, who is showing the art to prospective buyers.

"These are the classic works. These are the Midwest romanticism that we are all familiar with. It's the land around us, the land you grew up in," he said.

Growmark recently moved to a new and smaller headquartersand said it now has no room for the art works.

“They've moved to more corporate graphic arts on their walls and said it was time to let the collection go,” said Erickson.

Many of the works are from well-known artists of regional and national reputation.

"Some of the favorite locals, of course: Harold Gregor, Michael Dubina. Gerry Erly, Jeff Little and several other Illinois artists that I was not aware of,” said Erickson.

Some of those artists have passed on and others have shifted their styles since creating the works that Growmark bought.

Michael Gerry - 1987 acrylic on canvass.

“These are works that a lot of the artists don't produce anymore. These were works that were in high demand throughout that time. I think that’s pretty special,” said Erickson. "Landscape is still classic for us. It's timeless."

Erickson said some of the works are appraised at $15,000-$20,000, but not all are out of reach for those of more modest means who appreciate art.

“We have 19 artworks that are under $300. And for these classic beautiful landscapes, really, you just cannot get that quality of work for some of the prices we have," he said. "I'm really, really excited about it. We're selling everything at 70% of its appraisal value. We're really trying to make more things affordable to more people. And that's always been my goal as an art dealer.”

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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