URBANA — Bryan Snodgrass has seen foot traffic in the Busey Wealth Management headquarters increase, and it has little to do with customers.
In an unlikely scenario, many people are there for the culture — namely the art displayed on the second- and third-floor walls.
“The public can walk in during normal business hours and view the artwork,” said Snodgrass, director of wealth administration for Busey Wealth Management. “We have seen an increase in foot traffic just to look at the art.”
The public is welcome. Busey advertises it on social media, as does 40 North, The Champaign County Arts Council — which partners with Busey on the project.
It’s called The 1868 Exhibition, referring to the year Busey Bank was founded. After Busey remodeled its building in downtown Urbana, it moved its wealth-management group there from downtown Champaign because it was running out of space.
“Busey gave us a budget to put art on the walls of our new offices in the new building,” Snodgrass said. “That sparked our thought of ‘Why can’t we do something that is more?’ ”
Discussions ensued with local residents, including people in the University of Illinois School of Art and Design, and a connection was made with Kelly White, executive director of 40 North. Her recommendation was to undertake a rotating art exhibition.
White and her group have been managing communications with artists to submit the artwork they would like to see exhibited. The last call produced 125 entries, from which 34 were selected.
“We are somewhat limited in space, which is why we cull it down,” Snodgrass said, noting that while there is a space limitation, the atmosphere is top notch.
“Our public areas of the second and third floors of the Urbana building, there’s a huge center area, almost an arboretum that has natural light coming in through huge windows in the ceiling,” Snodgrass said.
All of the hallways and public space are filled with artwork. Professional tracks have been installed for hanging the pieces.
Many hours were spent on research and learning from art galleries the best way to exhibit “and what will allow for the most intentional and thoughtful space for the artists,” Snodgrass said. “We knew if we were going to do it, we needed to do it right, or we were going to be a disservice to the community.”
Nearly every piece exhibited is for sale. Prospective buyers can let Busey personnel know of their interest, and the artist is contacted.
Snodgrass emphasized that Busey does not benefit financially from the purchase of the artwork.
Starting with “zero knowledge” of art when the project started, Snodgrass said he has seen his art comprehension grow.
He’s also come to learn something else: “I realized for most artists, it’s much more than their hobby; it’s their ultimate passion.”
Snodgrass has also come to realize, which White confirms, that Champaign-Urbana has a large art community. Part of that is due to the UI, but as White said, “There’s a lot of homegrown talent.”
“I do think for a city of our size, we have an incredible amount of artists,” White said, noting the art community tends to support one another. “There’s a special environment here in Champaign-Urbana … that gets excited about the arts.”
The art collection rotates every nine months, with the next one opening in October.
An open reception is hosted prior to the opening of each exhibition.
The opening of the next rotation is set for Oct. 11, with an artist reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Thirty artists will be represented.
One of Busey’s early collections featured an exhibition of children’s works created by second- and fifth-graders.
“We probably had 100 of those on our walls,” Snodgrass said. “We invited the students on a field trip and had a cookie-and-punch reception. It was incredible to see how proud the students were of their work.
“I think I appreciate that reception more than the larger one.”
Since then, Busey has installed children’s art collections at its downtown facility and in Peoria.