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."

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.   

Guy Stephens

The law allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois takes effect next year, and people are trying to get ready. The law calls for expungement of criminal records for some past convictions involving possession of marijuana. One person working on that is Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross, and she has a number of concerns.

Guy Stephens

Illinois 17th Congressional District Representative Cheri Bustos is touting a report released Monday that brings rural Midwestern voices into the discussion on how to address climate change.  

Bustos said the plan for a ‘Rural Green Partnership’ is a way to make sure her part of the country isn’t left out in the response to an issue of national importance. She said some proposals to fight climate change don’t pay much attention to those in agriculture.

Guy Stephens

A Beloit College alum is walking across the country to draw attention to two veterans' issues -- suicide and homelessness. Tom Zerhellen is an English professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He's spending his sabbatical walking from Portland, Oregon to Marist to promote his campaign. He stopped at Beloit College during his journey through Wisconsin, where he spoke with WNIJ's Guy Stephens about what led him to take on his cross-country challenge.

Guy Stephens

The law allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois takes effect next year, and those in enforcement are getting ready. This includes a special category of police. Sergeant Nick Cunningham leads the Canine Unit in the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office. Guy Stephens spoke with Cunningham recently. Guy began by asking what effect the new law will have on his work.

ilhousedems.com

The law allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois takes effect next year, and people are trying to get ready. State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) says he is holding conversations about implementing it with the mayor of Rockford, the Winnebago County State's Attorney, and others in his 67th District. Guy Stephens spoke with West about the law, and began by asking why he voted for it.

A northern Illinois company on Wednesday cut the ribbon on a new solar array that will supply 100% of its power needs for the next 25 years. The company's president said it will make back its investment within 5 years, with the next 20 in the plus column for its bottom line.

A lawmaker at the event applauded the state’s move to renewable energy, but said Illinois needs to take a thoughtful approach as it embraces the new technology. A solar industry representative said he just hoped the current boom in the industry continues.

 

Dixon Park District

The kids playing in a new splash pad park opening July 6 in Dixon probably won't be thinking about a convicted former city official. But money gained in a settlement of Rita Crundwell's embezzlement case helped pay for the attraction.

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