New Exhibit Opens Today

In 1984 Cindy Churchill, a local patron of Nature’s Table, described the restaurant and music venue as the place for “bops and re-bops, till Mother Nature stops!” Until it closed in 1991, Nature’s Table served patrons some of the finest performances of jazz the Champaign-Urbana community had to offer. Under Terry Masar’s ownership, Nature’s Table specialized in organically grown vegetarian dishes. The one-story brick building across the street from the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts became the cultural hub of the Urbana-Champaign jazz community in the 1980s.

Nature’s Table was not the region’s first jazz venue. In fact, Champaign-Urbana supported a thriving jazz scene from the late 1930s to early 1950s. At that time, dance bands like the Dick Cisne Band and the Paul Karlstrom Orchestra frequently performed on the rooftop of Robeson’s Department Store at the intersection of Church and Randolph Streets in Champaign.

By 1979, several area bars and restaurants began offering jazz nights, featuring quartets and combos comprised of university students and alumni. These venues included: Zorba’s, Treno’s, Mabel’s, the Red Lion, and, beginning in 1980, Nature’s Table. The Table’s intimate environment, good food, and proximity to the university made it fertile ground for the growth of the region’s jazz scene, serving as both a stopping point for nationally renowned jazz artists on tour and as a “home base” for local saxophone legends like Ron Dewar and Guido Sinclair.

This exhibit examines the visual and sonic record of the jazz scene as it existed at Nature’s Table.   For further information about this new exhibit call 217-333-4577 or email

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