Twenty years later, Buzz Spector can still picture the bandbox studio just around the corner from the Jane Addams Bookshop he worked out of for four years while on the UI faculty.
“I had two upstairs rooms, one of which I converted to a small gallery, which I called ‘9.5,’ for monthly exhibitions by artist friends,” says the renowned artist, now a professor at Washington University of St. Louis and the former head of the painting program at the UI (1997-2001).
“My two young sons enjoyed coming over to look at the art — and make stuff using my grown-up art supplies.
“In the spring of 2001, they were constructing their own toys out of Premo, an acrylic polymer clay in bright colors that could be hardened by a few minutes of baking in a toaster oven. I told them they could have their show if they invited a few of their playmates to join them.
“A U of I grad student built some miniature shelves for the kids and the seven children who ultimately took part filled them with colorful small objects. My older boy, Ben, spread a green blanket on the floor and covered it with more than 100 clay figures.
“The opening drew a huge crowd of children, their parents and bemused neighborhood and university folk, some of whom were convinced that the installation was a prank and that I and/or my art faculty colleagues had put the whole thing together."