Experience the Boneyard Arts Festival: Our Top Tips

The most celebrated arts & culture events of the year in the greater Champaign County area is upon us—the Boneyard Arts Festival takes over the community from Thursday, April 12–Sunday, April 15. While many have experienced arts festivals around the country, navigating tents sheltering artists selling their creations, the Boneyard Arts Festival, presented by 40 North, the Champaign County Arts Council, is something entirely Outside of Ordinary. If this is your first time taking part in this event, we’re here to help you learn how to “Boneyard.”


We know, Boneyard isn’t a verb…but today, we’re making it one. While the Boneyard Creek gently meanders through our community, the Boneyard Arts Festival gets you INTO the community. You won’t find those recognizable white tents set up in a park for you to weave in and out of; instead, you’ll venture into venues of all kinds throughout Champaign County to discover local art.


That’s what Boneyard is all about—community. Local artists that live and work in the area connect with venues around Champaign County to showcase their work, from pottery, paintings, photography, jewelry, fashion, music, poetry and so much more. Over 100 venues collaborate with artists that fit their vibe, so you not only discover the sheer talent this community creates, you discover new businesses and spaces where you’ve likely never been. What you ultimately leave with is an appreciation of the rich and vibrant arts & culture scene which is embraced by the residents and business community, while also discovering a new restaurant, shop, attraction or gallery.


With over 100 venues representing just as many artists, where do you even begin? Let’s break it down for you.


The festival highlights four areas of the community: University of Illinois campus, Champaign, Urbana, and the communities outside C-U metro. Take advantage of the Boneyard Arts Festival website, where you can search by artists, venues, city, medium, demos and workshops, and many other categories. Maps are also available at venues including the Champaign County Welcome Center!


Thursday starts us off with a tour of venues on the campus where the diversity of its students is on full display. Opportunities to explore the Asian American Cultural Center for a group art exhibit or the Illini Hillel Cohen Center featuring photography and paintings from Jewish artists allow you to step into the cultures that make up our everyday community. The Spurlock Museum on campus will hold a family art-making project Thursday evening, while the University YMCA tackles art that is responding to the global water crisis. A stop into campustown business, Brewlab Coffee, will not only introduce you to your new favorite cup of coffee, you can also check out screen-printed materials from Half Hazard Press.


Once we hit the weekend, and University of Illinois Mom’s join us for Mom’s Weekend, we see venues across Champaign-Urbana open their doors for receptions, performances, workshops and demonstrations.


You can plan to spend your Friday evening wandering downtown Champaign where restaurants from Cream & Flutter, Esquire Lounge, Pekara Bakery & Bistro, Pizzeria Antica, Quality Beer and Watson’s Shack & Rail, will showcase artists and feature pop-up performances. Collections of artists will have shows at pop-up spaces, such as the GRLS ONLY show featuring Centennial High School’s fully female AP Studio Art Class, UPOP Art Gallery with seven talented artists, Penta Artists Exhibit featuring steel and aluminum sculpture, screen printing and interactive LED, and the Art Factory at Hyatt Place with an art market with 10+ makers.

The Artists of the Lincoln Building, from EKAH who’s imaginative mural at Weiskamp Screen Printing is on display, to Kelly Hieronymus (a Visit Champaign County maker!), Nathan Westerman, and over a dozen more will welcome you to see their studios and purchase art Friday & Saturday.


Dozens of incredible locations throughout Champaign will offer something unique to explore: woodworking demonstrations at CU Woodshop Supply; art inspired by sweet treats from the students at Southside School at Hopscotch Bakery; Poems on Tap at Jane Addams Book Shop; exhibits and activities at the Champaign Public Library; paper-making at Fresh Press; fashion with Mrs. Emily; and so much more!


On the other side of Wright Street, Urbana has nearly 50 venues to explore! Families will want to head outdoors to the Boneyard Creek Crossing for performances and activities with music, magic and more. The Playathon in Lincoln Square Mall is a marathon of performances perfectly complimenting Art IN the Square, part of the indoor market with a performance from Los Guapos.


Make your way down Main St. and stop in beloved galleries, Cinema Gallery and Gilbert Gallery for special shows, and see a collective of artists including Peg Shaw, Jodi Birdwell and Ann Coddington at the Cohen Building. Play at CU Adventures in Time & Space, Urbana Boulders or Anita Purves Nature Center while also discovering local art.


Haven’t tried Broadway Food Hall yet? Now is the time so you can also see the Art of Science from the Institute of Genomic Biology. Also try 25 O’clock Brewery for the first time, with art for sale from several local artists.


Finish your weekend in the communities that surround C-U. Head to Homer for a production at the Homer Opera House; visit Lynn Hawkinson Smith’s studio in the woods for an inspirational setting. Make and take art at Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet, and watch the process of turning clay into usable vessels from Piper Pottery in Seymour.


Our choices are virtually endless as you seek to discover new art and engage in the thriving arts and culture scene in the greater Champaign County area. The Boneyard Arts Festival truly encapsulates the Outside of Ordinary!

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