Guy Stephens

Reporter

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements.  In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level.  Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU.  In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."

Guy Stephens

As Illinois slowly reopens, live music is also trying to make a comeback -- at least in a few places.

With large-scale gatherings still a no-no in Illinois, big shows and music festivals have mostly been canceled or postponed. But some smaller locations are taking tentative steps beyond virtual or small outdoor offerings. 

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman sent out an email to employees of the school on Wednesday outlining next steps for their return to campus.  She said that return would be a "trickle" not a "flood."

Many have been working remotely since March when NIU began closing campus facilities in the wake of concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and, later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home-order.

17th Judicial Circuit

The 17th Judicial Circuit  announced Thursday that  it will be reopening courts in Winnebago and Boone Counties June 1 and resuming a regular schedule.

In the announcement, Chief Judge Eugene Doherty advised anyone coming to the court as a juror or litigant of the changes in its procedures that will be in place due to the continued threat of COVID-19:

ISP

The Illinois State Police on Friday made an announcement about the May 6 arrest in Iowa of Clark Terry Baldwin. He was wanted for the 1991 Tennessee murders of Pamela McCall and her unborn son, and the murders of two unidentified women discovered separately in Wyoming in 1992.

In the ISP announcement, titled "Illinois State Police Announce An Update to the Tammy Zywicki Case," the ISP indicated that "at this time, Baldwin does not appear to have been involved with the murder of Tammy Zywicki."

Rock Valley College

Rock Valley College's Board of Trustees announced Tuesday that they appointed Acting President Beth Young as the school's interim president.

Young was delegated the position of acting president by outgoing President Dr. Doug Jensen on March 30. Young had served as the college's chief operating officer (COO) since Dec. 2019. She will continue to perform the duties of COO along with those of interim president until a new permanent  president is hired.

Guy Stephens

Greg Zanis, who became known as “The Cross Man” for his memorials to the victims of mass shootings, died of cancer Monday morning. He was 69.

On social media, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin called Zanis a giant among men. Irvin said Zanis’ legacy will forever be remembered in Aurora and around the globe.

Over 23 years, Zanis built and personally delivered more than 27,000 crosses to the sites of mass shootings across the country, including Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, The Pulse nightclub in Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

State of Illinois

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Thursday an expansion of testing and testing sites for COVID-19 in the state.

 

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the State has partnered with Thermo Fisher to help improve testing capacities at Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) labs and across the state, and Thermo Fisher committed to prioritizing Illinois in its supply chain management. The State estimates that will lead over the next week to a new capacity of thousands more tests per day at State labs.

 

Beloit International Film Festival

The 15th annual Beloit International Film Festival opens Friday.

Greg Gerard has been with the Beloit International Film Festival, or BIFF, since it was founded by Rod Beaudoin fifteen years ago. Gerard, a singer/songwriter who started with no formal film background, said he’s done just about every job needed to help make it run. That includes the last couple of years serving as executive director. 

“It’s been a really interesting journey," he said. "And I’ve learned a lot. I’ve definitely increased my skill set.”

Guy Stephens

The second season of legal hemp growing is coming in Illinois. State experts are sharing what they know -- and don’t -- as more people express interest in growing it. 

Guy Stephens

Aurora’s downtown is transforming into what some are calling an “arts district.” 

Melissa Mercado is the executive director of the Fox Valley Music Foundation. It runs The Venue, a performance space located in the heart of downtown Aurora.

The Venue opened in 2019.  Mercado said the atmosphere of the 200-seat listening room is casual. Most sit around tables, and food and drink are available, and the offerings are intentionally eclectic.

Peter Medlin

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said in his State of the State address Wednesday that “urgent action” is needed this session to deal with climate change.  

“Adopting new clean energy legislation," Pritzker said, "that reduces carbon pollution, promotes renewable energy, and accelerates electrification of our transportation sector.”

The governor said Illinois is already suffering from the effects of climate change. He cited last year’s polar vortex and devastating floods as examples.

THe LAnd Conservancy of McHenry County

Illinois is known as "The Prairie State," but oak woods and savannas make up an important part of the state’s natural ecosystem. An environmental group launched a campaign to preserve one county’s remaining oak woods.

Lisa Haderlein is executive director of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County. She said it’s been working for several decades to protect the original landscape. But, like other parts of Illinois, there are only remnants left. That’s why her organization launched “The 5,000 Acre Challenge.”

https://www.pathto100.net/map

Members from the Illinois renewable energy industry touted its economic impact as they unveiled an interactive map of solar projects across the state. But they warned that the current boom will go bust if the State doesn’t pass new legislation.

Representatives from the renewable energy industry said, thanks to Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), it will generate $5 billion in economic activity as well as more than 14,000 new jobs for the state by the end of this year.

Guy Stephens

Voters in Winnebago County will decide whether to increase its sales tax by half a percent. The money would fund mental health services. 

Mary Ann Abate spent 41 years in mental health services as a social worker in Rockford, 25 of them on call.

“So every night," she said, "when anyone dealt with a psychiatric emergency in the emergency rooms from Janet Wattles Center or Rosecrance after that, I was consulted.”

Abate said that gave her a good idea of what is lacking in the county’s mental health system of care. 

Guy Stephens

A Northern Illinois University professor is looking at ways to reduce incarceration rates for those dealing with mental illness. Professor of Sociology Fred Markowitz will continue his research in Finland thanks to a Fulbright research grant.

Markowitz said both Finland and the U.S have seen an increase in the number of mentally ill in jail as they cut back local treatment programs. He said in the U.S., it’s difficult to get good information on the impact of those cuts, or programs that might prevent jail time for those grappling with mental illness.

Guy Stephens

"Black Hawk" gazes over the Rock River from high atop a bluff in Lowden State Park once more.  Restoration on the Lorado Taft statue (which he called "The Eternal Indian")  is complete.  Work remains on the surrounding plaza at its base. But the tarp and scaffolding covering and obscuring the statue the last several years is gone. 

Guy Stephens

The Boone County Historical Society received the largest donation in its history -- an iconic Belvidere mansion and $1 million to help maintain it.  So what is the society’s vision for its new acquisition?

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Restoration of a monumental Illinois statue is scheduled to finish by year’s end. 

Lorado Taft called his statue in Lowden State Park overlooking the Rock River near Oregon “The Eternal Indian,” but it’s known to many as Black Hawk.

Guy Stephens

The winter solstice arrives late Saturday. A community concert in Rockford invites everyone to come together for the longest night of the year.

 

David Stocker is a guitarist, percussionist, world musician and State of Illinois Artist-in-Residence. He organized the concert at Emmanuel Lutheran Church which will feature special guest Jim Scott. For many years, Scott played with the Paul Winter Consort. He’s also known as co-composer of the group’s “Missa Gaia” or “Earth Mass.” Stocker said Scott is a good friend. So he wasn’t afraid to take advantage of an opportunity.

Susan Stephens

The 25th and final "Hometown Holiday" variety show takes place this weekend in Rockford. Those onstage and in the audience are reflecting on what the show has meant for the city.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

A world-renowned printmaker and former Northern Illinois University art teacher has died. David Driesbach was known for his humorous, sometimes fantastic images, and his mastery of intaglio, or engraving, that helped produce those images.

At a retrospective exhibit of his work held at Rockford University in 2018, Driesbach offered words of encouragement to those who might follow.

“Feel free to expand your universe," he said. "If you’re an artist and you want to try intaglio, go all out for it. Give it a chance.”

Guy Stephens

An exhibition in Rockford closes this Saturday with a live musical performance by the artist. She'll interpret animated images she created.  It’s part of an effort by a new gallery space to promote art that goes beyond the paintbrush.

New Genres Art Space co-founders Jason Judd and Iga Duchalska usher their visitor into a large, high-ceiling room on an upper floor of the Rockford Public Library’s Nordlof Center in downtown Rockford. It’s one result of a partnership between the institutions.

Ann Marsden / libbylarsen.com

A piece by acclaimed American composer Libby Larsen will be given its world premiere this weekend at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The work is inspired by the true stories of migrants.

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director says next season will be his last at the helm of the organization.

In an announcement Wednesday, Steven Larsen said he plans to retire after the 2020-2021 season. It will mark his 30th with the orchestra.

Orchestra Marketing Director Michelle McAffee says he’s provided the next level of growth the RSO board was hoping for when they hired him in 1991.

“He went from five concerts a year to -- now we’re over twelve," she said. "He’s built an orchestra of exceptional professionals.”

Guy Stephens

The fifth annual Rockford New Play Festival takes place Friday and Saturday at The West Side Show Room. This year’s edition features short works by established and aspiring playwrights on the theme “Over…The Edge.” 

Guy Stephens

Work is finally set to begin on the restoration of an iconic Illinois statue.

Scaffolding has been erected around Lorado Taft’s statue. Known to many as “Black Hawk,” (Taft himself called it "The Eternal Indian") it overlooks the Rock River near Oregon. The crumbling concrete figure has been swaddled in black tarp the last few years to protect it from the elements. Soon, that will come off and restoration work will begin.  

Guy Stephens

The NIU Art Museum’s current exhibition explores aspects of war -- before, during and after. The subject is personal for some of the artists. 

Peter Olson, assistant director of the NIU Art Museum, showed me a room filled with photographs.  Arranged in groups of three, the larger-than-life closeups of young men -- British soldiers who had been deployed to Afghanistan -- stare straight out at you.  

Guy Stephens

There are signs of activity in a decades-long effort to clean up an Illinois Superfund site. But it’s still unclear when full remediation will occur.  

Guy Stephens

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed a measure repealing some restrictions on state efforts to enact green policies. That's encouraged advocates of renewable energy.

Brian Haug leads the solar energy division of electrical construction company Continental Electric. He's also President of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. He spoke with WNIJ during a ribbon cutting for a solar array at a private business near Hampshire.

Guy Stephens

Six months to the day and even the hour since an employee of the Henry Pratt Company facility in Aurora shot and killed 5 people there, families of the victims and company employees gathered to dedicate a memorial to the fallen.

A public vigil held just after the shooting to honor Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner drew a large media contingent and hundreds of people, despite freezing rain. By contrast, the August 15 ceremony, held at Pratt under a blazing sun and blue skies, was a small, almost private affair.   

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