Yvonne Boose

Arts and Culture Reporter

Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.

David Artbook Johnson

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poets from northern Illinois but this week we are crossing the Wisconsin border. 

Charles Payne was born in Michigan but currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin. As a child, he loved hearing the sound of Paul Harvey’s voice. Payne said Harvey’s innate ability to describe every intricate detail truly inspired him.

Payne’s works explore personal narrative and social commentary from his experience as a working poor Black male dying to live and living to die. 


Some Rockford high school students were pushed out of their usual creative territories in efforts to design something unique.  

Yvonne Boose

Like most cities across the country, Aurora's local businesses were hit hard by the pandemic. A nonprofit group is partnering with a social space to create revenue opportunities for area vendors.  

Art and Market Aurora is a new indoor market coming to the City.  

Local Nonprofit Aurora Downtown worked with community venue Society 57, 101 S. River Street, to make this possible. 

Provided by Michael Lee Johnson.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This segment features Michael Lee Johnson.


Vaccinations for COVID-19 are underway in Illinois, but not everyone is eager to take the shot. A recent virtual town hall meeting answered questions and tackled concerns for the Black community.

“Making It Plain: What Black America Needs to Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines” was moderated by health experts, faith leaders and several organizations. The event was hosted by the Black Coalition Against COVID-19. 

Some may ask why a conversation was needed specifically for the Black community. 

GreenRoom Improv

Comedy provides joy and healing for some people. A northern Illinois entertainment group is keeping the waves of laughter rolling by adapting to the times.   

The GreenRoom Improv has figured out a way to include its virtual audience in their shows.  

David Hunter is the director of the organization. He said it's important to connect with the public, especially during this time. 

Fermina Ponce.

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week features one of Aurora's deputy poet laureates, Fermina Ponce.


Your education doesn’t have to stop when you graduate. The Lifelong Learning Institute at Northern Illinois University has upcoming online sessions for those who have an appetite for knowledge.

Jason Klein, the director of P-20 initiatives at NIU, said that absorbing knowledge keeps us young. 


Many musicians lost out on live performance gigs due to COVID-19 but one northern Illinois artist found ways to keep the music playing for herself -- and others.

Under pandemic restrictions, folk and jazz musician Robinlee Garber’s paid gigs turned into non-monetary internet shows. 

Susan Schubert

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's segment features poet Susan Schubert.

Schubert is a member of A-Town Poetics in Aurora. She is a published author with two memoirs available on Amazon. They are “The Way I Remember It: A Memoir of a Trip to Europe 1971” and “My Place of Dreams: A Love Story.”

Schubert has won accolades for her short stories and photographs.

Staff at Pine Acres Rehabilitation & Living Center

Illinois nursing home residents are restricted from having visitors because of COVID-19 but volunteers from Northern Illinois University found other ways to engage with seniors at one local center.

Dementia residents of DeKalb’s Pine Acres Rehabilitation & Living Center were used to interacting with NIU students before the pandemic. One way they did this was through the Music and Memory program.  

Connie Kuntz

An Illinois state agency announced the 2021 theme for its 34th annual Poster, Poetry and Prose contest.

Kristi Morris is the environmental education coordinator for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. She explained the topic for its upcoming contest.  

“The theme is 'Fight Food Waste: Our Environment Can't Be Replaced,'” Morris said. “And it is based off our new curriculum units that we just partnered with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.” 

Connie Kuntz

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's episode features Christopher D. Sims. 

Sims is from the West Side of Rockford and first shared his poetic gifts onstage at Haskell Elementary School thanks to Dorothy Paige-Turner. 

Rooted in Black joy and celebration, his poems wind through the landscapes of this country's past and present. He hopes they will inform, engage and entertain. Sims, who originally wrote rap and hip-hop lyrics, said his poetry has a bebop cadence.

Here’s his poem "Kwanzaa."

Yvonne Boose

Each year on winter solstice, the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition remembers the homeless men and women in the area who died during the year. Despite the pandemic, that was still true in 2020. 

Passing cars blew their horns as 25 chairs stood empty at Rockford’s Davis Park. The chairs displayed pictures and names representing the 25 people who died. One of them passed in December of 2019 after the memorial.  Last year’s memorial number was 46.    

Connie Kuntz

This summer civil unrest peaked across the country and police relations were at the core of the controversy. A northern Illinois women’s empowerment organization is offering a training that could help Boone and Winnebago County law enforcement understand their communities better.


An annual holiday concert will continue to bring Christmas cheer thanks to the help of one Rockford television station.

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops concert will air on WREX-TV Christmas Day.  

Steven Larsen is the music director of the orchestra. He said although the concert is still taking place, a few things needed to change due to COVID-19. 

Yvonne Boose

A Rockford art gallery’s new exhibition is in full motion this holiday season.

The Kortman Gallery's “Balance: the Art of the Mobile” exhibit features pieces by eight mixed-media artists. Doc Slafkosky, director of the gallery located in the J.R. Kortman Center for Design, said he met two out-of-state artists at a trade show in New York one year and he wanted them to do something at the gallery.

Latrice Murphy Design and Photography

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. This week features Aurora's poet laureate Karen Fullett-Christensen.

Fullett-Christensen has been writing poetry and memory stories since high school, and credits two of her English teachers, Mr. Vespo and Mr. Brown, for their encouragement and support. She has self-published over 20 manuscripts. Her poems and creative non-fiction have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, and are available at no cost to anyone who requests copies.


The pandemic postponed many festivals across the state. But one group of northern Illinois folk festival organizers found a way to give back to its past artists. 

The Woodstock Folk Festival is a one-day summer event that started in 1986. It normally takes place on the third Sunday in July but not this year.

Carol Obertubbesing is the president and secretary of the festival. She said Woodstock Wednesdays, a weekly video performance, gives some musicians and storytellers a platform to showcase their talents.


Welcome to this week’s Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems from northern Illinois poets but this segment features Heather Cleveland from Oakland California.

Cleveland is a residential interior designer with over 22 years of experience. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, in San Francisco and is also a member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Northern California Chapter.


Women are in spaces that were traditionally filled by men. This includes the clergy for some religions. A few northern Illinois female faith leaders shared what it’s like for them to be in a position that some reserve for their male counterparts.

Violet Johnicker is the pastor of Brooke Road United Methodist Church in Rockford. Johnicker said her father was excited about and supported her to decision to be a minister and her mother understood the life because she herself was a preacher’s kid.  


Most vending machines disperse snacks or maybe a cup of coffee but a northern Illinois performing arts center is taking it up a notch for its fundraiser.

The West Side Show Room in Rockford is introducing the Elf-O-Matic vending machine. Mike Werckle, the artistic director, said the original idea was to have people purchase online gifts and pick them up from the Christmas vending machine. 


A northern Illinois art museum is following up Saturday morning cartoons with afternoon caricature fun.

The Rockford Art Museum has a youth Cartoon Club. Jaymee Fedor is the education and engagement manager at the museum. She said she recently moved back to Rockford from Philadelphia, where she had a community of children who attended her drawing workshops at the library where she taught.


This year has been difficult due to COVID-19, but some Rockford organizations are urging residents to show their brighter side this holiday season.  

The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with the City of Rockford and ComEd, are co-sponsoring #Decorate815. This challenges Rockford residents to decorate their homes and yards.


Illinois is under a Tier 3 Mitigation strategy in efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Indoor gatherings that don’t include those from the same household are prohibited. One northern Illinois museum isn’t letting this stop their show.

Provided by Richard Holinger.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's poem is by Richard Holinger

Yvonne Boose

This first day of December is Giving Tuesday and one northern Illinois organization is asking for help -- so they can help others.

Major Mark Martsolf is the Winnebago County coordinator for the Salvation Army. He said the organization served way more families this year than last.  

“I've been a Salvation Army officer for 40 years. I've just not seen the need so pronounced,” he said. “First time recipients, people who have to rely on support services that never had to before, perhaps they're laid off from their jobs.”


When you think of an auction you might think fast-talking auctioneers and excited participants raising their hands or shouting out bids. COVID-19 has silenced this practice. But one northern Illinois church is continuing with its annual sale while helping local artists during the process.

The Unitarian Universalist church in Rockford is holding an online auction, marketplace and art fair. The event is normally for the church family only, but this year is open to anyone who visits their website.

Provided by Christine Swanberg.

Welcome to WNIJ’s Thanksgiving week Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week’s poem is by Rockford’s first ever poet laureate Christine Swanberg.

Swanberg’s published works span over several decades. Her writing has appeared in many anthologies and journals like Beloit Poetry Journal, Louisville Review, Spoon River and Earth Blessings.


A northern Illinois Boys & Girls club received a grant that will help bring an attraction that’s typically outside -- inside the building.

The Rockford Fairgrounds Unit Boys & Girls Club of America is putting a mural in one of its rooms with the help of what’s called an Our Journey Action-Grant formerly known as an Our Journey Micro-Grant.