BLOOMINGTON — Art lovers have an unusually stacked weekend in store, courtesy of a flurry of special events and openings converging on the weekend at hand, including the longest-running annual art affair in town.

Amateur art, more

At the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington, a busy weekend kicks off Friday with the Armstrong Gallery opening of a show of mixed-media works by Jeff Robinson, juror for this year's MCAC Amateur Art Competition-Exhibition.

Robinson, an artist and curator based in both Springfield and Chicago, received his MFA degree from Illinois State University in 2011.

Opening Friday in the MCAC's Sales Gallery will be a show of calligraphy works by Jinhua Zeng, who has maintained a passion for her art at the age of 92. Before immigrating to Bloomington 20 years ago, she served as chair of the Education Department at the Guangxi Teachers' College in Nanning, China.

Both shows will be up through April 21.

Climaxing the MCAC's weekend of activities will be the 91st anniversary edition of B-N's longest-running annual art event, the McLean County Amateur Art Competition-Exhibition.

This year, the contest drew more than 200 entries, with around 100 works by McLean County-based amateur artists selected by juror Jeff Robinson, whose own solo exhibit, as noted, opens Friday.

The competition opens with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m., and features the awards ceremony, during which cash prizes will be awarded in various categories. (The reception is also for the two solo shows that open Friday.)

Handed out will be the event's top honor, the $300 Merwin Medal Award, for outstanding work of art. Also presented will be the $150 Ashley Ritter Most Promising Art Award.

The exhibition will remain on view in the Brandt Gallery through April 21.

Artist Card Walk 

In downtown Bloomington, the March edition of First Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. brings an array of special art-related events.

The global art phenomenon known as Artist Cards Editions and Originals returns for its spring edition to participating galleries and studios.

The signed cards are created by more than 50 area artists, and are restricted to the wallet-sized dimensions of 2½ inches by 3½ inches.

They employ any type of surface, including paper, metal, plastic and thin wood.

The cards are priced between $5 and $15, and are limited in number (though more complex cards, it should be noted, can sell for more).

They will be available at participating studios and galleries and select downtown businesses. For more information, call Brian K. Simpson at 309-828-7471.

IWU/ISU galleries

In addition to the downtown Bloomington, a series of new exhibits are in their first weeks at Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University.

In IWU's Merwin Gallery, "transitions/transformations," up through March 22, features a joint exhibit of works by glass artists Aaron Wolf-Boze and Helen Tegeler.

Wolf-Boze, who works as a studio engineer at Chicago's Firehouse Art Studio and lectures at the School of the Art Institute, creates blown glass vessels that are then cut with ornate patterns.

Tegeler, a glass artist based in New York, combines glass and fiber work to examine nature in transition, from propagation to growth to adaptation to death.

In IWU's Wakeley Gallery, "Seen While Looking," up through March 22, features the photography of painter and printmaker Justin Kronewetter, retired director of Ohio Wesleyan University's Ross Art Museum.  

Kronewetter's images focus on bringing attention to common things seen in an uncommon way, through tight cropping that focuses on one particular object.

Note: Both galleries will be closed March 10 through 18 during IWU's spring break.

In ISU's University Galleries, a trio of new exhibits is currently on view, through April 1.

"they were ..." features the mixed-media and video work of Ebony G. Patterson, an artist based in Kingston, Jamaica, and Lexington, Ky., who uses vibrant colors, elaborate patterns and opulent materials to grab the viewer’s attention and prompt what she calls "a closer look and deeper engagement with the underlying issues of violence and visibility."

"E.S.E. (East South East)" is an exhibit of a photographic series by New York-based artist Terttu Uibopuu in what is billed as the largest solo exhibition of her work to date.

Featured are 25 photographs taken throughout the United States and Estonia, each described as "revealing in its human, natural or architectural subjects a quiet fortitude amidst the adversity of ongoing recovery from political occupation, natural disaster or recession." 

Also on view is "The Rug's Topography," featuring selected photographs from Lincoln, Neb.-based artist Rana Young’s 2015–2017 series of the same name. She refers to the photographs as “blended self-portraits” of herself and her former partner of six years.

They were made as the couple navigated both the dissolution of the romantic portion of their relationship and one partner’s decision to transition from male to female.

Young will discuss her work in a free artist talk at noon Wednesday in the University Galleries.