New Exhibition is a Warmer Take on the Blizzard of 1978

January 11, 2019
        A smiling child next to some food is superimposed onto an image of heavy snow covering cars.

The massive blizzard that rolled through the Midwest 41 years ago left quite the impression in the minds of the people who lived through it. States of emergency, businesses closed for weeks – just last week, we showed you how it was enough for WTIU to air its first live news broadcast.

But there’s a whole generation of Hoosiers who grew up hearing stories of the storm without being old enough to witness it themselves. Jared Cheek has translated those stories and memories into a new exhibition at Rainbow Bakery in Bloomington this month.

With “The Blizzard of 1978,” Cheek wanted to use collages to look back at the collective consciousness of the time. The show takes old photographs and newspaper clippings from during the storm and juxtaposes them with whimsical images from elsewhere in the country.

Cheek's collages are framed on the left wall of Rainbow Bakery. Cheek's collages are on display at Rainbow Bakery throughout January. (Photo: Payton Knobeloch)

“I think I tried to give a lot of the collages a lighthearted, playful feel – at least as much as you can involving a subject that killed around a hundred people,” Cheek said. “I think part of me wanted to keep things from looking too cold, bleak and grim, so I wouldn’t depress people hanging out at the bakery.”

Cheek is constantly on the hunt for images to use in his art. He’s been constructing collages for over 15 years, and he’s been searching for materials to use for just as long. It’s all kept in a “loosely organized” file, waiting for an opportunity to be used.

“I’m constantly buying old cheap books and magazines for material. I’ll look through them and then cut out anything that catches my eye. I like to find weird old things that may have otherwise been on their way to the trash can,” Cheek said.

While the clippings come from direct coverage of the Blizzard of 1978, the other images Cheek uses are just as much a time capsule of that era.

A collage featuring an angled image of a shopping center next to a snow bank. (Image courtesy of Jared Cheek)

“There is a picture of a woman in one of these collages that is from a very old weekly advertisement for Hills Department Store. I remember finding it at a yard sale in Upland, Indiana in 2002 or so.”

While a bakery might not be someone’s first thought as a venue to hold an exhibition, Erin Tobey, who runs events and community outreach for Rainbow Bakery, says the shop has a history of showcasing works from all around Bloomington.

“While we show plenty of art by people who might consider themselves ‘professional’ artists, we like showcasing art by people who are multifaceted creative types,” Tobey said. “I think impassioned work made by folks as a lark or in the wee hours or between jobs, that’s just as worthy of exhibition as work by someone getting an MFA.”

A closeup of several of Cheek's collages at Rainbow Bakery. Cheek's collages mash up news photos of the Blizzard of 1978 with other, more whimsical imagery from the same era. (Photo: Payton Knobeloch)

Cheek, who's also been running local music label Flannelgraph Records for the past 10 years, fits right into that category.

“Jared doesn’t often make visual art, but he’s a supremely creative and clever person, so his point of view is interesting and funny. And he’s got an eye for weird history, especially as it pertains to media,” Tobey said.

If you want to see Cheek’s exploration of the Blizzard of 1978, it’s on display at Rainbow Bakery through the end of January.

Featured image courtesy of Jared Cheek.