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Homegrown: Celebrating 30 Years of Artistic Community

Written by Tim Talley

Akus 1 Genesis.JPG

Genesis, 2000, Frances Kornbluth, collage on handmade paper, 20"x20"

Willimantic, Conn. - The Julian Akus Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University is presenting the juried exhibition, "Homegrown: Celebrating 30 Years of Artistic Community," from March 24 through May 5.  An opening reception and awards ceremony takes place on Thursday, April 7 in the gallery from 5 to 7 p.m.

"Homegrown" celebrates the 30th anniversary of the gallery's opening and also commemorates its namesake, the late Julian Akus, who taught visual art at Eastern for nearly three decades until his passing in 1981.  The work of 60 artists was chosen by a panel of three jurors: Michael Cochran, artist and adjunct professor at Rhode Island College and former instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); Joy Pepe, professor emerita of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, lecturer and former curator at Yale Center for British Art; and Julia Courtney, curator of art at the Springfield Art Museum.


Akus 2 Blue Tanker.JPG

                  Blue, 2011, Cynthia Guild, oil on panel, 36"x 48"

The more than 70 works now on view in "Homegrown" were created by artists throughout the Northeast, and includes residents from Willimantic and neighboring towns such as Lebanon, Coventry and Ashford.  Residents across the region were encouraged to enter their work, and students, faculty and staff from regional universities also submitted pieces for consideration.

Some of the work selected by the esteemed panel of jurors is created by students from Eastern, the University of Connecticut and Manchester Community College, along with artists who are well-established and artists who are just starting promising careers. Artists range in age from 18 to 90.  This show includes traditional media such as oil on canvas, steel, lithography and pastel, as well as non-traditional media such as painting in leaves and moss-covered sculpture.

Akus 3 Self in Leaves.JPG

 Self in Leaves, 2010, Clint Slowik, leaves on posterboard, 40"x60"

Show organizers include local artists George Jacobi and Pat Miller; Eastern Visual Arts major Christopher Cox; and Elizabeth Peterson, director of the Akus Gallery.  "This is our first juried show at Akus Gallery, and highlights work of several outstanding artists of the region including some of our own talented undergraduates," said Peterson. "The response was overwhelmingly positive and not surprisingly, the caliber of work submitted was high.  Since the days when the great American impressionist J. Alden Weir lived in Windham and painted the Willimantic Mills, this region has been and continues to be extraordinarily culturally rich."

The Akus Gallery is located in the lower level of Shafer at the corner of Windham and Valley Streets in Willimantic.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1 to 7 p.m. on Thursday and 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.  The public is invited.  Admission is free.  For more information regarding this and other exhibitions at Akus Gallery, please call (860) 465-4659 or visit on the web at  


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