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Beloved Local Art Teacher Featured in Gallery Show at SIC

Tiffany Day adjusts painting

Tiffany Day, SIC art student from Harrisburg, adjusts “Hay Bales on the Agin Farm,” an oil on linen from the Scott Stout Collection.  Day helped install the exhibit and this is her favorite piece in the current Barb Allen: Stories on Canvas show in the SIC Art Gallery.

Barb Allen: Stories on Canvas is currently featured in the Art Gallery at Southeastern Illinois College’s George T. Dennis Visual & Performing Arts Center.

The show brings the work of a beloved local area art teacher to the entire southern Illinois community.  A walk through the gallery can elicit stories and memories from the viewers.

“We are made up of stories.  Our lives are stories.  And whether they are told sitting around the kitchen table or told as a secret to a good friend, stories shape us and make us.  My goal with every painting is to reveal an unspoken story,” said Allen.

“When we retell a story about something in our childhood, for a moment we are ten years old again.  Those conversations are treasures in our memories.  As a painter, without speaking, I get the amazing privilege of telling a story that can be hung on a wall.  And the owner of the painting gets to walk into that story a thousand times.  Next to my family and faith, having the passion to paint is the greatest blessing in my life.”

Allen studied art at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Art Education.   For the next 34 years she taught art at Harrisburg High School while continuing to grow as an artist.  She did post-graduate work at SIU with Erin Palmer.


Allen did a series of prints of local historical interest and artwork for her most famous client, Ozzie Smith.  In 1996 she was selected as Illinois Teacher of the Year and spent a year traveling and speaking to schools across the country and Japan.  That same year she also won the prestigious Milken Educator Award.


She retired from teaching in 2005 and is pursuing her love of painting.  She studied with portrait artist Mary Minifie in 2006, legendary portrait painter Everett Raymond Kinstler in 2007, Micheal Shane Neal in 2009 and 2011, Casey Baugh in 2011 and 2012, and with her hero, Anne Blair Brown, in 2013 and 2014.


She now paints and sells her work from her home studio in Carterville and has been honored in a number of galleries and competitions.  She explains that her joy from painting requires her to pass it on, and she encourages everyone to support those trying to be creative with any part of their lives.


“If we all concentrated on supporting each other’s passions, we would have lots more good stories to tell,” said Allen.


Some of her work can be found on her website,, or on Facebook under “Barb Allen Portraits.”


SIC art instructor Sara DeNeal said, “Barb has the ability to give life to a portrait so that it speaks to the viewer.  Her work is immersed in light and color which demonstrates her amazing artistic skill.  We are honored to have the work of an Illinois Teacher of the Year and SIC Distinguished Alumni in our gallery.”


A reception with the artist will be held on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m. by the art gallery.  Family, friends, former students, fans and anyone who loves art are encouraged to attend.

Barb Allen: Stories on Canvas is on display from now through Sept. 9 at SIC.  Art gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. when SIC is in session, and during special events. For more information call 618-252-5400 ext. 2232.