June 14, 2021 at 1:45pm
Dane Lisser

Student brings strong community engagement concept to residency

Millikin University's Art Department and Center for Entrepreneurship have named Shannon Cook the 2021 Robert Harrison Crowder Artist-in-Residence at Blue Connection, Millikin's student-run retail art gallery.

Cook is a senior art education major with a concentration in painting and drawing from Decatur, Ill. She is working under the guidance of Professor Lyle Salmi, chair of the Art Department, and Ed Walker, associate professor of art, who teaches the Blue Connection course at Millikin. Cook began her residency at Blue Connection on June 7, 2021, and will be running the gallery from 12 noon to 5 p.m. every weekday through the middle of July.

Shannon Cook Millikin University

Shannon Cook

A collage artist, Cook is using her residency to work on paintings that "collage together to portray a certain location or region." She also plans to develop a Decatur collage.

"I would describe myself as kind of all over the place which is why the collage style works well for me," Cook said. "I like to paint and draw all sorts of subject matter and this style allows me to do that while still having a direction. I am pretty obsessive when it comes to my art. If I get really into a painting, it's all I can think about until it's done."

The committee that chose Cook for the residency was impressed with her proposal that included a strong community engagement concept. "She will seek suggestions from visitors to the gallery as to what subjects should be included in her remarkable 'collage' paintings," Ed Walker said.

Cook says her paintings do not have hidden meanings, but they create moods with the combination of random subjects. "I hope viewers feel a certain way when they look at each of my paintings/drawings … what way is up to the person," she said when asked about what she hopes viewers will take from her artwork.

Under Lyle Salmi's guidance, Cook has improved in creating a composition and having a direction with her artwork. "Since I arrived, I have been pushed to combine subject matter and layer my media to create far more interesting art that I was making before coming to Millikin," she said. "By running the Blue Connection this summer, I hope to learn more about how a gallery operates, how to put together a cohesive show, and how to properly price and hang artwork."

The Robert Crowder Residency is a unique opportunity for Millikin junior and senior art students to be able to fully realize their own creative and entrepreneurial potential through the generous support of funding on behalf of the late Robert Crowder, a member of the Millikin Class of 1933.

"The fund represents an ongoing collaborative effort between the Art Department and the Center for Entrepreneurship. That collaboration is prominently featured as one of the original student-run ventures, The Blue Connection Gallery," said Lyle Salmi. "Shannon's application stood out in that she had fully articulated a community engagement aspect to what she wanted to accomplish with the residency. We look forward to seeing Shannon's progress as she works on her ideas through the residency. Such a residency allows students such as Shannon to fully embrace Performance Learning."

Shannon Cook Millikin University

Cook plans to showcase the artwork from her residency on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, from 5 – 7 p.m.

A native of Bethany, Ill., Robert Crowder owned his art production firm in Los Angeles and specialized in Japanese-style painting that garnered a Hollywood clientele that included Elizabeth Taylor, among others. Today, his name lives on through his successful company, Robert Crowder & Associates. The design firm is now owned by Mr. Yasumasa Tanano, who established the Blue Connection Artist-in-Residency in memory of his mentor and former employer.

Blue Connection

Opened in 2003, Blue Connection seeks to provide a platform for artists to showcase and sell their artwork while bolstering and engaging with the Decatur area art community. Located in the Madden Arts Center in downtown Decatur, Blue Connection is led by Associate Professor of Art Ed Walker and is used by students in Millikin's Arts Entrepreneurship Program to grow their businesses.

Millikin's Arts Entrepreneurship Program is a six-credit course sequence providing learning-based business opportunities for students to practice self-employment. The program utilizes curricular-based, experiential activities and student-run ventures to give students a live laboratory experience in developing, launching, and growing an arts-based business.