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Heartland Community College

Perennial Optimism 2.0

PERENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0 by David Dow / Wisecracker Studio

January 8 - March 29, 2024

Events Date: March 28, 2024
Two panels in the morning and a reception in the afternoon.

Link to Audio Stories

Curatorial Statement

Joe McCauley Gallery is pleased to present PERENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0. In this exhibition, artist David Dow draws inspiration from the resilience of perennial plants, celebrating life, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of six remarkable women who have faced life's challenges with unwavering determination. The sculptures, each a captivating fusion of human and plant-like elements, convey a parable of the cycle of life. He states: “From winter emerges spring, from deepest slumber emerges exuberant life. Perennials survive despite difficult conditions and often neglect but they thrive when given attention and nurtured. Nature provides humanity this lesson over and over again, if only we have the wisdom and humility to see and learn from it.” Each piece is accompanied by a QR code that leads to two versions of stories about these women: a short 2–3-minute monologue by each woman and a Zoom interview of the artist with them.

Dow's work embodies the essence of optimism, illustrating that, much like perennials returning with the arrival of spring, individuals can find the strength to thrive despite their personal winters. Through his art, Dow encourages viewers to reflect on the profound lesson offered by nature: that with wisdom and humility, one can discover the power to persevere and flourish even in the face of adversity. In "PERENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0," Dow's art serves as a testament to the human spirit, encouraging us all not to give up on ourselves and to believe in our ability to reach for the light, find our voices, and ultimately flourish, much like the perennials that return year after year.

Community Engagement:

Beyond the artistic expression, Dow actively supports YWCA McClean County*, YWCA Labyrinth**, and
Labyrinth Made Goods***, showcasing the transformative role of art in the community. These concepts
will be explored in 2 panel discussions. Additionally, the women inspiring the works will visit and interact with our classes, sharing stories of perennial optimism. This engagement offers students a unique opportunity to connect with real-life challenges and explore the supportive roles of community and art. Their presence and narratives will enhance the exhibition in a meaningful way.

We look forward to a thought-provoking exhibition that encourages resilience, transformation, and community involvement.


March 28, 2024                 Panel discussion: 9:30- 12:15, ACEC Auditorium

                                              Reception: 3-5, in the gallery, ICB 2507


March 28 - April 11          Labyrinth Made Goods Pop-Up Shop, ICB 2000

                                              PERENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0 - EVENTS

Events Date: March 28, 2024
Two panels in the morning and a reception in the afternoon.

Panel discussions:

  1. Stories of Resilience, 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. ACEC Auditorium

Watch the recording

Moderators: Cristina Prestin-Beard, and Karla Huffman
Panelists: David Dow, Antionetta (Ann) Rountree, Hannah Julien, Vera Tavers, Brusha (Shay) Tolise, Candice Byrd, Shahrbanoo Hamzeh

Objectives: To learn about the inspiring stories and journeys of growth of the individuals who inspired David Dow’s sculptures for Perennial Growth. To change the negative narrative around individuals who have experienced incarceration. To explore how we can offer “Real Chances” in our communities. To explore the idea of transformation through art and art as an effective tool to cope with challenging situations and as a platform to start difficult conversations.

  1. Uplifting Community, 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. ACEC Auditorium

Watch the recording

Moderators: Karla Huffman, and Cristina Prestin-Beard.
Panelists: David Dow, Liz German, Kara Alt, Vera Tavers, Candice Byrd, Brusha (Shay) Tolise

Objective: To explore the role of the individual/artist in community upliftment and transformation. To explore how community support and personal empowerment can support individual resilience and transformation. 

Note: represented on this panel is YWCA Labyrinth and Labyrinth Made Goods who have a track record of success in supporting formerly incarcerated individuals.  Our artist David Dow works with these community organizations.

Public Reception at the Gallery (ICB 2507):
3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Labyrinth Made Goods:
Introduction table during the panels and a booth at the reception continuing for two weeks in office 2000 area.


*. YWCA McLean County focus is to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. They are an inclusive
organization, serving people of all backgrounds through every stage of life regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or ability.
**. Labyrinth Outreach Services to Women offers reintegration services to formerly incarcerated women. The overall vision is to significantly reduce recidivism.
Labyrinth addresses the needs of women released from the Illinois Department of Corrections and McLean County jail who are returning to the community. They help
rebuild each woman’s dignity and nurture her growth as she develops the attitudes and skills required for productive, independent living.
***. Labyrinth Made Goods is an online shop launched in 2022, led by women who have overcome challenges and are now pursuing new opportunities. These inspiring
individuals are using their creativity and skills to revitalize their lives and create meaningful paths forward after facing past challenges.

Contact the Art Gallery

ICB 2507

Gallery Hours:

Monday- Friday

9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Summer Hours

Effective from May 20-August 16


9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

And by appointment


Emma Grant


Phone: 309-268-8635

Carol Hahn 

Campus Map

Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Division