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Heartland Community College

Joe McCauley Gallery hosts PERENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0

January 9, 2024

A interactive sculpture exhibit at Heartland Community College blends lessons learned from nature with inspirational stories of individual resilience. 

Heartland’s Joe McCauley Gallery presents the collection PERENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0 created by David Dow. The exhibit runs from January 8 to March 29, 2024. 

The exhibit draws inspiration from the resilience of perennial plants, and the resilience and indomitable spirit of six remarkable women who have faced life's challenges with unwavering determination. 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 video interview with the artist and the women. 

The sculptures, each a captivating fusion of human and plant-like elements, convey a parable of the cycle of life.

“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,” said David Dow. “Nature provides humanity this lesson over and over again, if only we have the wisdom and humility to see and learn from it.” 

Dow works with community organizations McLean County YWCA and Labyrinth, and Labyrinth Made Goods. It is through this community work that the artist was inspired by individuals with real-life challenges including those who experienced incarceration. 

“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,” said Heartland Community College Gallery Coordinator Shahrbanoo Hamzeh. “The work 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.”   

The exhibit is paired with panel discussions “Stories of Resilience” and “Resilient Community” to be held on March 28, 2024, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Astroth Community Education Center (ACEC) located at the College. The panels, led by Heartland faculty, will feature some of the women who inspired the artist’s work featured in this exhibit, as well as the community organizations which support them. 

The College will also hold an artist reception from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on March 28 with David Dow at the Gallery. Labyrinth Made Goods will be introduced in the reception, and the organization will have a booth in the Instructional Commons Building for two weeks. 

The PERRENNIAL OPTIMISM 2.0 exhibit is free and open to the public on weekdays during regular Gallery hours. 

About the Artist

Beyond the artistic expression, David Dow actively supports YWCA McClean County, YWCA Labyrinth, and Labyrinth Made Goods, showcasing the transformative role of art in the community. 

About the Joe McCauley Gallery

Exhibits, events, and parking at Heartland’s Joe McCauley Gallery are free. The gallery is in room 2507 of the Instructional Commons Building (ICB) on Heartland's Normal campus, 1500 W. Raab Road.

Hours are Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (on days the College is open). Appointments for groups can also be made upon request.

For more information about this exhibit, visit or contact Gallery Coordinator, Shahrbanoo Hamzeh at

Written by: Steve Fast