Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An update from the Illinois Arts Council.

February 24, 2010

Dear Illinois Arts Council Constituents,

The Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) today launched, a website that allows Illinois residents to provide feedback that will be used to shape the state's fiscal year 2011 budget.

This is the first time in Illinois' history that you can actively participate in the state's budgeting process. As you know, the State of Illinois is in dire financial condition and the budget for next year will be even worse than the current one. The potential responses for this historically difficult situation may include deep cuts or total suspension of many state programs as well as calls for additional revenue sources, as Governor Quinn has proposed. The Governor and legislators are in a very difficult position as they try to address these huge challenges. The more information they have from their constituents about how next year's budget should be constructed, the better the Governor, senators, and representatives will understand their constituents' priorities.

I encourage you to review this new website and make use of this opportunity to apprise the Governor's Office of Management and Budget of your priorities for the state's fiscal year 2011 budget.

Note that all submissions are subject to public disclosure.


Terry A. Scrogum

Terry A. Scrogum
Executive Director
Illinois Arts Council

Monday, February 1, 2010

First-Person: Activists Answer, "What Motivates Me to Speak Out for the Arts"

First-Person profiles a current event from the perspective of a member of the Illinois arts community. Please contact Scarlett Swerdlow at or 312.855.3105 x13 if you would like to contribute to the next First-Person.

This month, we invited arts leaders from across the state to answer questions about their advocacy experiences. We are pleased to share responses from Travis Stimeling of Millikin University, Maria Mowbray of Rock for Kids, and Penny Wollan-Kriel of the Springfield Area Arts Council as well as five Facebook fans.

Travis Stimeling, Assistant Professor of Music, Millikin University, Decatur

Travis Stimeling participated in the January 13 Responsible Budget Call-In Day.

Motto: "If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough."

What motivated you to speak out for the arts with your elected officials?

The arts play a key role in helping the residents of Illinois to understand one another. Especially in these times when it seems that, as a nation, we are more divided than we have been in recent history, access to the arts is essential, as they offer us the opportunity to share our basic humanity, to publicly express our differences, and to start productive dialogues about ways to improve the quality of life for all.

(Pictured below: the Perkinson Music Center at Millikin University)

When was a time you saw the world differently?

Shortly after my son was born, I was teaching about Mahler's Kindertotenlieder in my music history class, which I had done several times before. In the opening piece of this song cycle, we find a father facing the sunrise after his son died in the night. Exhausted physically and emotionally from the prior night's tragedy, he reflects that the sun rises with the promise of a new day without regard for his own sorrow. Standing before my students, I suddenly understood this piece in a way that I never had before, connecting the father's experience to my new fatherhood, and I wept.


Maria Mowbray, Executive Director, Rock For Kids, Chicago

Maria Mowbray met with members of Congress in 2009 at National Arts Advocacy Day and then traveled to Springfield to meet with the state representatives and state senators who serve Rock for Kids stakeholders. Maria is pictured below with State Senator Antonio Munoz (D-1) in Springfield.

Motto: "There are no problems -- only solutions." (I use this as my motto, but I have to admit I stole it from Maestro Paul Freeman of the Chicago Sinfonietta.)

What motivated you to speak out for the arts with your elected officials?

As a nonprofit organization that provides services for children living in poverty, we are often in the position of giving a voice to those who do not have one, and as arts educators, we share with students the tools to voice the abstract. It is imperative that arts organizations like Rock For Kids utilize the political system to add their voices to the discourse on what is important to us as a society. There is no better way to do this than make the effort to meet face to face with elected officials and share with them concrete evidence of the positive impact the arts are having among their constituents.

Proactive advocacy and a unified message are our strongest allies in the fight to preserve the arts and arts education in this country.

Why do you think people should care about the arts?

There are so many reasons to care about the arts! Arts tourism produces a significant amount of state and municipal revenue. Providing arts education early on in a child's life has a significant impact on cognitive development, and the creative thinking skills developed while learning in the arts can easily translate into the competitive job market. But beyond that, the arts give us the means to define and document where we've been individually and as a nation, as well as the freedom to imagine where we are going.

When was a time you saw the world differently?

Recently a student enrolled in Rock For Kid's Songwriting for Teens class in Pullman shared song lyrics about her cousin who was killed by gun violence. The resulting conversation among the students about how to interpret those feelings in music demonstrated the transformative and healing capabilities of the creative process.


Penny Wollan-Kriel, Acting Director, Springfield Area Arts Council

Penny Wollan-Kriel participated in the January 13 Responsible Budget Call-In Day.

Motto: "Hang in there -- the arts will be around long after we are gone."

What motivated you to speak out for the arts with your elected officials?

The arts are critical and the budget allocation for the Illinois Arts Council has been decimated over the past few years. Further cuts just cannot be considered. As the administrator of an arts organization which has felt the results of the reduced budgets, I needed to voice my opinion.

(Pictured below: an art show at the University of Illinois at Springfield.)

What, if any, obstacles did you face in speaking out?

None. Since our service area is in two districts, I called both Representatives Poe and Brauer as well as Senator Bomke. The staff members I spoke with listened, thanked me for calling, and indicated they would relay the message.

Why do you think people should care about the arts?

As has been said before (and I couldn't express it any better or more succinctly): "The arts are the soul of a people."


Heard on the Arts Alliance Illinois Facebook Page

Members of the Arts Alliance Illinois Facebook community were asked, "Why do you think people should care about the arts?"

Pat Navadomskis -- The arts develop critical thinking skills, open people up, and [let us] build and share community.

Sandra Ahten -- I don't think people SHOULD care about the arts. Care about art if it is in you to care about art. If it is not, you probably get your fulfillment in other ways. Expression will come forth in different ways for everyone. That said, I think children should be exposed to many different things, including the arts.

Chris Milostan -- Arts -- being engaged in the creative process -- is holistic integration and balance of body, mind, and spirit. It reduces stress, helps people adapt to change more effectively, and fosters innovation of new ideas, products, services, etc. Our country, planet, and the human community needs creative expression.

Beverly Holmes Hughes -- The arts hold the core of the story of who we are by sharing what we are about.

Martha Frish Okabe -- The arts provide insight into ourselves and others, and can be a source of sheer joy. Sometimes that joy comes instinctively, and sometimes one needs to be taught some basics before that art form can be appreciated. It's not always easy, but it's worth the effort.

Add your voice to the conversation at