Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Beloit Fine Arts Incubator
520 E. Grand Ave., Beloit, Wis., (608) 313-9083
An exciting new addition to the local art scene has opened inside a restored 1912 Beloit landmark built as the Bell Telephone Co. The Beloit Fine Arts Incubator (BFAI) includes a co-op of art studios and a gallery that displays both traveling exhibits and the work of resident artists.
It also hosts classes and special exhibits throughout the year. This all volunteer-run nonprofit organization exists to help emerging artists to make, exhibit and sell their art; to offer community education and cultural events; and to strengthen the human creative skill and imagination that helps Beloit to thrive. Monthly gallery shows kick off with a BFAI First Fridays Gallery Opening, complete with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, and featuring work by local and regional artists. These events are free and open to the public.
The historic two-story home of BFAI is made of Chicago firebrick and has housed restaurants, the Elks Club and an antique store. It was purchased in 1999 by the Beloit Economic Development Corp., on behalf of the emerging arts incubator.
2570 N. Westbranch Road, Polo, Ill., (815) 946-2500 barnacopia.com
It all started in 2011, when Gary Bocker decided to build a 20×30-foot lean-to for storing the vintage tractors and cars he’d quietly been collecting for years. He’d wanted his grandsons to know something about the farm life he’d once lived. But they told him he was thinking too small, since their own barns were already filled with pieces of his collection.
Wife Judy told him he’d enjoy the collection a lot more if he could actually see it all in one place. That’s when the idea of building a big new barn hatched, and, without hesitation, Judy took it one step further. “Let’s make it a museum,” she said. Not prone to dragging their feet, the Bockers finished their three-level peg-and-post barn/museum in time for one grandson to hold his wedding reception there in June of 2013.
Today, much to the Bockers’ surprise, all kinds of visitors are renting out space for wedding receptions, baby showers, Christmas parties and so forth. There are even overnight accommodations and a coffee bar in the silo.
But you don’t need a special event to visit. Just drop by to see Gary’s 1950 Chevy, 1950 Ford tractor and plenty of other interesting artifacts in this novelty setting. The museum is open Wed.-Fri. and Sun. 1-5 p.m., but check the website just to make sure no special events are booked that day.
Planetary Studies Foundation Earth and Space Museum
115 N. Main St., Elizabeth, Ill., Planets.org
Did you know that one of the largest collections of meteorites belongs to the Planetary Studies Foundation headquartered in Elizabeth, Ill.? Or that two of the three astronauts who orbited the moon in 1968 are among its members? Or that PSF is celebrating its 25th anniversary?
The organization’s mission is to promote the study of planetary science and astronomy with an emphasis on meteorites.
On Dec. 20, at 1 p.m., the group will hold a public event at the museum, named Christmas Around the Moon, to celebrate the historic 1968 Apollo 8 Christmas Eve mission. During that mission, astronauts Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders did a live television broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from Apollo 8.
The Dec. 20 event kicks off with a 45-minute film about the Apollo 8 mission. A discussion will follow, and then the PSF will use the Starlab planetarium to feature the Star of Bethlehem. The cost is a $5 donation. It’s a good chance to check out the new museum facilities, which promote an interest in scientific thinking, with an emphasis on Apollo missions and meteorites.
On Christmas day of 1995, Mrs. Violetta DuPont gifted the James. M. DuPont Meteorite Collection, which at the time was the world’s largest private collection, to PSF for curating, scientific research and public education. PSF meteorite specialists have since led or sponsored international field teams to expand that collection from 1031 meteorites to more than 1350, making it one of the 10 largest public meteorite collections in the world. PSF also has conducted three meteorite expeditions to Antarctica.
Hours: Tues., Thurs. and Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.