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.
Janene Stephenson is a youth director at the club. She said she wasn’t expecting the art project to be that big until she reached out to Mary McNamara Bernsten, the executive director of the Rockford Area Arts Council.
“When I first approached Mary McNamara [Bernsten] I was just thinking of the girls just painting a little rainbow and all that,” she explained. “I didn't think of it being this huge -- as being in a mural -- because I know murals are usually outside.”
Artist Jenny Mathews is working with seven girls to complete the mural. Mathews said she normally works with the Arts Council for their summer program but the pandemic prevented that.
“We usually do a mural every summer with kids that sign up for ArtsPlace. I wasn't able to do it this year. So, it's kind of filling in that gap for me," she said.
Stephenson stated that this type of project is giving the youth an outlet during the pandemic and she revealed that they are overly excited about the mural and working with Mathews.
“It's like Jenny didn't even worry about if we were getting the grant or not, she still proceeded to do the, you know, the painting,” Stephenson shared. “And I really thought that was really nice of her. And the girls really love her."
The grant will be used to help pay Mathews and for art supplies but Stephenson added that the club also needs help with getting chairs and tables for the room. Mathews says they are hoping to finish the project by New Year's Eve.
The Rockford Area Arts Council is partnering with the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Rockford Art Deli to make the $500 grant possible. Several of these grants have been given out this year.
Other recipients for this fourth phase of the grants are Artists’ Ensemble Richard Raether for “Our Mysterious Journey Podcast”, Kerry Knodle for an upcoming percussion recital and Jennifer Roser for “Festival of Frights”, a drive-thru Halloween event.
- Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.