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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Visiting the JAC in Alton

Last Friday night, we checked out the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton for the first time. They had an opening for their new exhibit.

The Jacoby is in Downtown Alton, on Broadway, near the river. It's in the old Jacoby furniture store. The building was donated to the group in 2004, and the storefront space is already looking great. They've still got the big, red neon sign out front, even though it's not lit. On the inside, the tin ceiling is in nice shape and the pine floors glow. They chose to retain the molded, stylized early modern columns that run almost awkwardly down the middle of the space, which we really like. The columns are a byproduct of a 1953 "modernization" of the store, and though their style is quite different from that of the tin ceiling and they are pretty in a less obvious way than the building's older features, they nonetheless give the space an interesting character. When we saw them, they were all painted white, but a representative of the gallery informed us that for a previous exhibition, they'd painted the columns different colors, and she said that it lent a completely different atmosphere to the space. How about that! A rehab that not only respects the historic accumulation of changes in the building, but plays with it! I am going to be interested to see what they do when they renovate the top two floors of their building.

And oh yeah, we enjoyed the art once we were finished inspecting every inch of the rehab (Working on your house for such a long time will make you do that whereever you go.). Our favorite was the art of Michael Mason, who has works up from his Homage to Louis Sullivan series. Mason, who has spent years working with salvaged pieces of Sullivan ornament as the Curator of the University Museum at SIUE, creates elaborate patterns by scanning plant material and arranging it into geometric forms on his computer. He then prints the works onto canvas. It is fascinating to see the organically inspired geometry and colors of Sullivan realized entirely in actual plant forms. (You can see a small image of his work at the website of Xen Gallery, which also has some of his work up right now, but it's best seen in person.)

After we finished checking out the space and the show, we strolled around Downtown Alton. Even though not much was open at that hour (Well, we did enjoy our dinner at Subway.), it was still very pleasant. Though Downtown Alton is not entirely bustling, it is nonetheless quite intact and fairly healthy, especially compared to other Downtowns in the region of similar size and age. The scale and age of the buildings in the area, as well its dramatic hills, made for a pretty interesting walk. Before long, we found ourselves strolling along the peaceful river, gazing in awe at the beautiful new Clark Bridge (How is the new Mississippi River Bridge supposed to top that?).

All in all, we had a nice evening in Alton. We fully recommend checking out the Jacoby, and enjoying the neighborhood while you're there.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

There's a neat bar, the Bossanova Lounge, not far from there. If it were closer to the City limits, I'd frequent it, for sure. Thanks for the tip on the Jacoby.