The Final Stretch

Two nights ago our exhibit (finally) opened. After months of planning, debating, and staring at paint samples in different lighting all our hard work paid off.

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(from left to right: Emily McInerney, Erika Allison, Colleen Filipek, Mary Challman, Rachel Tavaras, Kyle Dickson, Chani Jones, Katelyn Dickerson, Amy Ramsland and Maria Mears.Photo by Dr. MJ Rymsza-Pawlowska.)

While we are pleased with how polished our exhibit looked, we worked at the Tarble everyday and Friday morning to ensure successful responses. We would like to thank everyone who helped us make the exhibit possible, but especially the Assistant Director of the Tarble Arts Center, Mike Schuetz.

Throughout the week, we finished constructing and painting our mounts.

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The exhibit team planned out the tasks to be completed each day, making sure we would be completely finished Friday morning. Even though the room was painted before install week, as we moved text and photo panels we were patching and repainting holes. The entire class came together to make our exhibit successful.

We were able to learn how to use power tools, work as a team and to articulate our decisions to HA alumni and visitors.

This experience has shown us how much work goes into one single exhibit; moving forward we all can use this exhibit to become better museum professionals.


7 Ways to Advertise an Exhibit

It’s been a busy semester, and the Marketing Team hasn’t been exempt from the chaos. The exhibit opens in one week, and while there is still a bit to be done, it is also worthwhile to reflect on what has been done thus far to advertise Making Illinois.

Research how to advertise an exhibition, and one will find a lot of lists. These lists include ideas that engage the community and disseminate the plans for an exhibit to as wide of an audience as possible. In the spirit of “listicles,” this format can help us account for what the Marketing Team has done so far this semester.

1. Create social media accounts… and actually update them

We started accounts for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We have updated these frequently for the exhibit, creating content that includes artifacts to be included in the exhibit, tidbits about Illinois’s history, and our progress. In these final days leading up to the exhibit, we have been trying to post something everyday on at least one of the social media accounts to engage with as many people as possible. These accounts have been especially useful for keeping people that are not physically in the area updated on the exhibit (i.e. parents, mentors, et cetera).

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Pictured: The Twitter account page for Making Illinois
[Follow us: Twitter Facebook Instagram]

2. Same goes with the website

The exhibit website is the perfect way to connect with potential audiences by serving as an information hub for the exhibit. The site offers a comprehensive space for data about the Historical Administration Program, the Tarble (our host site, including hours and directions), the class blog, social media links, and more. The site is also home to interactive educational elements related to the themes of the exhibit.

3. Print a poster series and use them

It’s not enough to have catchy poster. Posters and flyers should be distributed throughout the community. For our exhibit, we created a poster and a flyer, both corresponding aesthetically. To make these creations worth our while, we distributed them across the EIU campus and around town.


Pictured: The poster and flyer for Making Illinois advertising the exhibit at EIU

4. Send out a Press Release 

Social media is great, but sometimes good old fashioned ink and paper can’t be beat. Creating and sending out a press release for local newspapers has been a great way to reach out to audiences that don’t engage with social media while continuing to engage with audiences that do.  Only a week until the exhibit, and some area newspapers are starting to publish bits about our work.

5. Make use of other community resources

Whether it’s through EIU or beyond, Making Illinois has made use of many such resources. We sent our press release to EIU’s student newspaper and will add the opening night to EIU’s webpage of weekly happenings. Beyond EIU, the Marketing Team taped a segment on CiLiving, a human interest news show for Central Illinois, to be aired on April 4th. These avenues ensure that awareness of our exhibit is forced into the lives of Central Illinoisans at EIU and beyond.


Pictured: The Marketing Team on CiLiving (Left to Right: Matt Metcalf (Host), Mary Challman, Rachel Tavaras(me), and Kyle Dickson)

6. Plan an enticing opening night and send out personal invitations

Planning the opening night has been slightly chaotic. Luckily, as the graduate assistant for our host site (The Tarble Arts Center), I am regularly in close contact with the Tarble’s office manager, Sally. I was able to look at menus for opening receptions in the past, and I have adjusted the menu to fit our needs and budget. With Sally’s guidance, I was able to order some delicious refreshments from the local restaurant What’s Cookin’ for our opening night.

However, opening night isn’t just about the food. We had to create a program for an organized, enjoyable experience. We arranged for a few speakers to give their welcoming comments at the beginning of the reception, and we distributed the program with the flyer and personalized invitation to VIPs and exhibit contributors.

7. Create a fabulous trailer

The trailer was a daunting task, but one of our Marketing Team members made it work. Not only did she create an exhibit trailer that conveyed each theme of the exhibit in a collective way, she created three sub-trailers of sorts, each elaborating on one of the three exhibit themes. These videos give audiences an intriguing taste of what the exhibit will offer, effectively expanding our audience.

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Pictured: Still from our exhibit trailer, can be found with the other Making Illinois videos on our YouTube channel

The marketing process for the exhibit is far from over. However, the momentum that we have built so far will hopefully draw many interested visitors this upcoming opening weekend! In the mean time, follow us on social media (TwitterFacebook , and Instagram) for more updates!





Exhibit Trailer is LIVE!

Creating an appropriately representational, multi-dimensional snippet of the “essence” of our exhibit was one of the more unique challenges I’ve faced throughout the exhibit development process. Such an ephemeral exhibit concept required an equally loose audiovisual depiction of our content – a palatable yet complex expression of what interested visitors can expect in our exhibit. My initial vision for the trailer was to create a “mini-documentary” of sorts, with voiceovers and talking heads (see picture) to explain our unique exhibit concept. However, I quickly and unfortunately discovered that without the correct audio equipment, any effort toward professional sound quality was futile. In an ill-fated attempt to create a DIY sound room to counter a very echo-y room, I draped several blankets over my Mac desktop and me – as you can imagine, it didn’t work out so well.


An apt example of a “talking head” in a documentary!

Despite my audio woes, the replacement of verbal audio with music was ultimately beneficial to the final product. The inclusion of music added another wonderfully complex layer to my audiovisual interpretation of our exhibit. Music has always been an important part of my life (I almost went to a conservatory for oboe performance), so choosing the right piece was of paramount importance. Any amateur movie-lover can attest to the power of music in film – can you image “Titanic” without your heart going on? The first battle scene in “Gladiator” certainly wouldn’t have been as gripping as it was without Hans Zimmer’s heart-stopping score. I was determined to find the perfect piece of music to convey the essence of our exhibit. I believe I found it. On a late-night internet excursion to find any piece of music with the word “Illinois” in the lyrics, I came across a song called “Illinois Blues” (this is the version I first found, this is the version we used in the trailer). The gritty, almost-guttural sound of the blues guitar conveyed a sense of deep connection with the Illinois dirt while having an other-worldly quality that is inherent to Delta blues. I couldn’t have found a better piece of music.

All in all, the exhibit trailer is what a trailer should be – concise, complex, and communicative. It conveys the essence of our exhibit without being overwhelming, and leaves a little to the imagination (we’re trying to “draw in” our audience, after all). Stay tuned for three additional videos that explore our exhibit themes of land, people, and experience – they go live on Sunday! In the meantime, please enjoy our exhibit trailer. Only a few more weeks ’til the exhibit opening – we hope that you’re as thrilled as we are!


When an Exhibit Comes to Life

The lines between different teams began to dissolve this week as fabrication started at the Tarble Arts Center. After our State of the Exhibit presentations this past Tuesday the abstract planning and designing officially came to a close and we began to fabricate.

Working with the physical pieces of our exhibit bring our plans from the theoretical to reality. On Monday the Education team cut our first die-cuts to bring as examples for the class in the State of the Exhibit presentation. Having some of the pieces of the puzzle helped us all to ‘see’ the final product to come.

The die-cuts purpose in the interactive was trifold. First, using die-cuts allowed us to reference our artifacts; farm animals in relation to the agriculture section, a football in reference to the community section, etc. Second, die-cuts reinforced, in a small way, our design concept of utilizing raw materials. We are simply cutting out cardstock pieces, doing nothing else to process the material. Thirdly, the die-cuts serve a very practical purpose. They are easy to write on and hang up, allowing visitors to participate in the interactive without hassle.



On Tuesday the Design Team presented their fabrication and installation schedule and almost immediately after fabrication commenced. Wednesday afternoon we put on our first coat of paint in the Tarble E-Gallery. The finality of this action was at the same time reassuring and slightly terrifying; there was no going back from here.

The first work day included spackling holes in the dry wall, sanding the walls, and taping up the room. And by the end of the day the E-Gallery was covered in a fresh coat of paint. Three of the four walls were a tan-cream color, deliciously titled “Humus.” The back wall was covered in a deep burnt orange, titled “Maple.”

These initial four gallons of paint dramatically altered the look of the gallery. We returned on Thursday to apply a second coat of paint, finalizing the room’s color transformation.

Today we are finishing the painting by applying a thick grey coat to the three pillars that divide the room into thematic sections. We will also start working in the EIU Art Studio to create our metal mounts. This process involves bending thin metal sheets into strong triangular forms which will hang off the wall of the gallery to hold up a number of artifacts.

My fellow educators are also planning on completing our programming script and questionnaires today. We know that we want to include the evolution of our exhibit concept. From “Made in Illinois” as a static, artifact-based title to “Making Illinois,” more active and people-focused. From an exhibition based in objects to an exhibition based in concepts and ideas. In order to explain this process we will utilize some of our concept maps and graphics we, as a class, have developed over the past eight months.

In the coming week we will forge ahead on fabrication as Install Week looms ever-closer.


Finding Artifacts Can Be Messy..Literally

This week the exhibits team got even closer to having every artifact found and put in the Lab. We have made contact with almost everyone who might have something to loan to us, and are staying within our budget.

Thanks to Dr. RP, we have a great button from the 1996 Democratic National Convention.  IMG_1841.JPG

Now that the labels are finally written, we can focus on fabrication and finalizing the last few artifacts.

Today, Chani and I went to the EIU Student Rec Center to pick out and pick up trophies for the exhibit. We were able to look through each trophy case in the Rec and even got to go below the pool in their storage area where dozens of trophies are kept.

After being taken through the maze that creates the building, we found ourselves on the ground floor, being led through two sets of doors and past maintenance equipment. When we got closer to our destination, our lender, Mark, informed us we would need the flashlight on our cell phones to see properly. Once he opened the last door all we could see was outlines of boxes and smell chlorine.

He let us look through as many boxes as we wanted to find two trophies that caught our eyes. We knew we wanted to get a football trophy, and one that was older but looked cool. Since we knew what the label was going to say for the “experience” section, we figured once we saw a trophy that fit we would know.

All the way in the back under another box was a women’s softball trophy.


Mark was able to unlock a trophy case on display in the football office so we could borrow a newer one. He is also looking into letting us borrow a Tony Romo jersey, if he remembers after Spring Break.

Our adventure today reinforced something we both knew: never obtain loan items from an unknown source alone. While everyone in the Rec was helpful, it would have taken forever to look through all those boxes alone and in the dark. Plus, there is someone with you to check for spiders.


Making Labels: Hot Off the Press

In class today, we learned how to dry mount our exhibit labels. This is the first part of the exhibit that we put together as we finally head toward the fabrication and installation stage. The education and design team have been working hard for weeks now to get the labels finished and pick out all of the appropriate pictures to accompany them. Their work paid off today as we saw the images they had selected printed out to scale and mounted on foam core. Bev Cruise in the Media Services department at Eastern walked us through the process and has been a huge help with getting all of the labels and images printed for us.


The dry mounting process was interesting for those of us who had never done it before. We began by cutting out the images and stacking them based on their size, color and if they had a typo. Unfortunately, we did spot a few typos but nothing that a second round of printing can’t fix. Typos are not uncommon in this process and we were lucky to only have a few simple mistakes.


Once the images were cut we placed them face down on the foam core mounts. We were able to reuse foam core from a previous exhibit and thus save some money. But because we were reusing the mounts and foam core is a fairly fragile substance we had to be extra careful to avoid and bumps, dents, or wrinkles when placing our images. The images were tacked to the dry mounting tissue and then flipped over and tacked to the foam core before heading off to the hot press.

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Dry mounting is a process of attaching a print (such as our labels) to a mount (such as foam core) using a layer of adhesive and a hot press. The dry mount at Media Services was set to 160⁰f. The press had a pressure seal so once we laid our prints down and closed the mount it began to suck the air out and compress the mount. Once the air pressure reached 18psi we waited 3 minutes and the released the press. We now had several huge pieces of foam core with several images firmly attached to them.


The final step was to cut them to size. Using the large mat cutter provided by Media Services we cut the images down closer to the correct size. Then we trimmed them even further with precision knives and sanded the edges to give them that museum quality look.

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There is still a lot of work to do before the exhibit is complete. Matting the images was only the first step but it was a good way to start. Today was a productive, fun, learning experience for many of us and I am filled with excitement as we finally begin to see the physical manifestation of all of our hard work.


3 People, 1 Voice: Making Illinois Labels

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, but the education team is finally done with label writing! This has been quite the process and truly a collaborative effort and I could not be happier to move on to putting our full focus on interactive and web elements.

Label writing has truly been a learning experience. Colleen, Kate, and I each have a unique style of writing and our own individual voices that come through in our work. One of the more difficult things that we had to accomplish was to make cohesive labels that sounded like one overarching voice that would tie together the entire exhibit. Because of this, we had to go through all of our labels together, step by step, and together our three voices really became one that has given us the tone of our exhibit.

Another challenge that we all struggled with was word count. No one wants text heavy labels. We hear it all the time, “No one reads!” “That’s too much text!” Because our exhibit is conceptual, our labels had to convey large ideas rather than concrete facts or object descriptions. Rather than connecting objects, we had to connect themes and topics to create a story.


For this reason, our labels racked up a pretty high word count. We wanted to touch on all of the artifacts in our exhibit, obviously, but we also wanted to create narrative for this complex conceptual exhibit that our audience may not see right away without some description. Beverly Serrell, label-writing expert and author, cautions museum professionals to not go over 75 words for interpretive/object labels. Our labels are a little longer than this because of the nature of the exhibit. I have found, along with my team, that even more important than abiding by general rules set out by established professionals is just being flexible and having the ability to adjust when something is not working. We could not come close to getting the information and ideas we needed to convey to our audience in under 90 words (for the most part). We realized that our exhibit was different, and because of that we needed to bend the rules a little to give our exhibit justice.

Another interesting experience in collaboration was when the education team presented our final drafts to the class this past Tuesday. Going through our work label by label was tedious and left us feeling pretty vulnerable. We’ve been writing and editing since the beginning of the semester, so the idea of seven other people picking apart our hard work is scary, but completely necessary. Critique is how you grow, and it is also how you find mistakes and are able to see how someone with fresh eyes views your work. Collaboration and listening to other people’s ideas and suggestions has been by far the most important part of this exhibit. Communication can be difficult at times, of course, but being able to bounce ideas off of other people in a manner that is productive and constructive has given us the opportunity to present the best labels possible. Although it’s really three people that have written the labels, it’s been a class effort to gather the information and give us feedback.

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A sneak peak at our labels. This one is the introduction, so ideally the first label you would read in the exhibit. 


Design and Fabrication

As installation week looms nearer, Design team has been working pedal to the floor. Recently, we developed a preliminary budget and have since been working on finalizing materials and costs; we have been collecting menus and fliers from local businesses, and getting permissions for image reproductions and artifact loans. Next week the class will have our first dry-mounting session for photos and labels and design team will be ordering all of our fabrication materials, so that they arrive in time for us to begin fabrication as soon as we return from Spring Break. In order to be ready to meet these deadlines, Design team has been working to iron out the details of design elements and fabrication.

Printing: Labels and Photos

Making Illinois will have its fair share of labels and graphics. One challenge with designing labels for this exhibit is the division of labor between two teams. Our Education team has been responsible for writing all of the label content while the Design team is responsible for designing the template for the labels. So one team writes and the other designs, what is the big deal? Since we want to have the best possible label content for the exhibit, Education team has gone through several rounds of revisions which in some cases changed the Design team’s conception of the floor plan as well as number and size of labels. This entire process has been a finding a delicate balance between two team’s work schedules and ideas; between giving sufficient time for content revisions and getting completed labels to press on time. In order to give the Education team more time, we held off on printing labels and sent in the majority of our photos to Media Services instead.

Outsourcing Vinyl Graphics

Since we have so many design elements that we want to take form as vinyl decals for the exhibit, Design team wants to be sure our local printing company, Sign Appeal receives our graphics in plenty of time to print and cut them before installation week. Amy and I met with the printer several weeks ago to run through our ideas, get a quote, and find out the file requirements for our designs. Since then, Design team has been working on graphics in between other projects, but now with only one week left until we submit, we are working to really finalize our designs.

Fabrication Planning

Over the past few months, we have been in the continual process of brainstorming, designing, and revising plans for fabricating display mounts, introduction panels, and section panels for the exhibit. We met several times with Mike Schuetz from the Tarble Arts Center and Matt Boonstra, sculpture professor at EIU and finally settled on a fairly concrete idea of what we wanted to fabricate and which materials we would need. Unfortunately, we dreamed up a design for display shelving that brought about some technical challenges.

After Erika discovered hollow triangle shelves used in the Red Room exhibit, we fell in love with the idea of using hollow triangle shelves in Making Illinois, along with hollow rectangular floor pedestals and risers.

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Triangle shelves from the Red Room

Our grand scheme was to use MDF, a soft composite wood, to fabricate everything in the exhibit. We would paint the insides of all the shelves with the thematic color of their respective section and leave the outer surfaces raw, aiming to emphasize the idea on an ongoing process of making. However, we ran into a problem when it came to mounting our shelving units on the wall. Most of the artifacts we are displaying a relatively small and lightweight, however a few weigh up to ten pounds. Since MDF is so soft, it doesn’t hold screws very well, especially under pressure.

After running through several options ranging from adding wooden blocks to the top and bottom of each triangle to using metal shelving brackets to support each triangle, to fabricating the entire shelf out of a single continuous sheet of metal, Design team sought the expertise of Matt Boonstra. We were taken by the idea of bending metal to form our hollow triangle shape, but needed advice on how feasible and cost-effective this plan would be. To our delight, Professor Boonstra gave us a few hours of his time to draw up a plan, show us where to order sheet metal, and walk us through the fabrication process step-by-step to create a scale mock-up of our smallest shelf size.


Amy learning to use the Foot Shear.

Using 16 gauge scrap steel, we cut it to size using the sheet metal Foot Shear and bent it into a triangle using the manual Bending Brake in the sculpture studio. We were not completely happy with our first design, so we modified the shape to reduce the length.






Our new shelving design will significantly reduce fabrication time and possibly material costs as well. It will also bring us closer to the raw, industrial look we were aiming for.


Stay Tuned for Making Illinois!

Once again, your marketing team has been working diligently to reach the masses with our exciting exhibit. Tapping into every resource we can think of, we have made great strides since we went live.

For starters, one of our newest additions is a poster. With the brilliant design work by Rachel Tavaras, these posters will be distributed around Eastern Illinois University’s campus, as well as public places to reach our audience. The design appeal we strove for was a geometric minimalist look that reflected our design schemes and color provided by the design team. I think the minimalist look is quite the style now and has a modern appeal that attracts the wandering eye.MIL_Poster_Concept2

Additions have been made to our social media as well, as you may have noticed, and have all expanded exponentially. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have exploded in followers and our weekly themed posts seem to attract attention. One such idea was to feature each of the H.A. students in a mini bio section hoping to add a personal touch to the exhibit and attract potential employers. These posts have been a success so far, and few have even gotten requests to speak to them about opportunities in the future. Not only do we market the exhibit this way, we market ourselves! In addition, our Museum Crush Mondays are also connecting with fellow museums and attracting attention to us. Although I had originally just quipped about Museum Crush Mondays as a joke, it seems to be another great addition to our social media.

The website has also gone through a massive update. In fact, it looks much different from the time of its inception. With critiques and suggestions, the website has been crafted into a space that reflects all of us and the exhibit to the highest extent. The website will be constantly updated and will contain new features in the future as our education team adds new content for us soon. The new sleek look is also minimalist, and includes bios, an artifact spotlight, and a mini-gallery of themed photos.Web 1.jpg

Some things to watch out for from us are some video productions from the marketing team. We are gathering our equipment together to go and shoot video to create 3 teaser trailers of our themes, and then an exhibit trailer. We intend to create professional but fun trailers to be shared via all our platforms to give our audience a taste of what’s to come. We may not win an Academy Award any time soon, but we are all extremely excited to shoot these videos to the highest quality achievable.

Speaking about being on film, our final piece of news is the possibility of a television spot. That’s right! We’re on T.V! One of our fellow colleagues, Matt Metcalf, from last semester reached out to us and wanted to feature us on his show, CILIVING. We are tentatively looking at March 28th for our spot, but this offers a big opportunity to our exhibit and will be an experience I won’t soon forget. So stay tuned to our updates, and watch your televisions carefully, for your lovely neighborhood marketing team may appear on it!


Design and Disseminate

With plans to raise awareness for the exhibit, this week the marketing team worked on a Press Release for local newspapers and a series of paper promotional materials.

Charged with the task of creating a poster, I knew that I wanted something geometric and clean to reflect the well-received banner that I had created for our social media accounts.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 11.58.37 AM.pngOur color palate  is fantastic (shout out to the design team!), but it can easily turn into chaos. This is where my “minimalist” vision comes into play.  I decided that the best way to keep the design clean and minimal while using the whole color palate was to stick to one repeating shape over a neutral background.

For inspiration, I turned to Pinterest.  Frequently associated with the social media site’s abundance of mason jar-related DIYs, Pinterest is also great a great source for design inspiration. There I found a few geometric posters that echoed what I had in mind:

Daily Poetry Poster, Kings of Leon Poster

I chose to make a poster series of sorts.  I decided on a 17″ x 11″ poster to hang up at local businesses and at EIU in the months leading up to the exhibit’s opening. For the second poster in the series, I chose to do a flyer on letter paper MIL Deconstructed Postersize (8 1/2″ x 11″) that coordinates with the poster to hang up on bulletin boards around campus, community bulletins, at the Tarble, and at local businesses in the last weeks leading up to the show.

For the larger poster, I went with a clean design. Inspired by the Daily Poetry Poster, I took my original intention of using one repeating shape and arranged triangles to create a skewed diamond on InDesign.

I kept the background white, and then I filled in the triangles.  I filled five triangles with solid colors, each representing a value from the color palate. I then started tinting images from the Creative Commons relative to Illinois to match the color scheme.  I filled the triangles with these images.

I needed to add the title and other information about the exhibitTitleart.png. The title art that the design team made is fantastic, but it looked a bit busy with my triangles. I ditched the title art and went with Century Gothic Bold, reminiscent of the exhibit’s website and other design elements, for the time being. I plan to replace this with the font used in the title art.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.23.29 PM.pngMoving on to the flyer, I decided on a bold design.  I wanted to fill the page with color to catch the eye.  I turned to a poster from the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition and decided to tint the pictures again as part of the design.

Unlike the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition poster, I did not use a single image. Instead, I drew on the design team’s idea of vinyl cutouts to represent each of the three themes: Land, People, and Experience.

For the purposes of presenting the poster to the class, I used images from the Creative Commons for both the poster and the flyer.  All of these pictures are free to use and modify according to their licenses.  This allowed me to bypass the process of obtaining rights. All landscape shots were taken in Illinois. In order to increase relevance to the exhibit, some of these images will be replaced with pictures that we plan to include in the exhibition.

I proceeded with tinting the images in Photoshop and then placed them into InDesign. Echoing the 17″ x 11″ poster, I used the same color values for tinting and then used the same Century Gothic Bold font for the title and labeling the themes (again, for the time being).

The preliminary results can be seen above. The posters are not final and won’t be until they are printed (then there is no going back!). To see the final posters and check on our progress, keep visiting our blog and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!