Arts

Arts and culture

New York's Metropolitan Opera, armed with technology, today's top singers and a captive, home-bound audience is, in spite of them, struggling to make opera relevant. The company's new streaming series, Met Stars Live in Concert, while a valiant endeavor, can't seem to shake off opera's fusty, aristocratic trappings.

One of America's most beloved and resourceful pianists has died. Leon Fleisher was 92 years old. He died of cancer in Baltimore Sunday morning, according to his son, Julian.

The pianist's roller coaster career began with fame, moved to despair and ended in fulfillment.

Sessions from Studio A - Dan Maguire

Jul 23, 2020
WNIJ

Back in March of this year, Dan Maguire joined us with Lucy Brearley and John Kielty to kick off our first ever Studio A Cafe concert. That live concert series had to be cut short, but we are excited to bring Dan Maguire's live performance to you on Sessions from Studio A.

Listen to Maguire's performance in front of a live audience and also hear our talk with the Rockford singer-songwriter about his background, influences, and much more. Keep up with Dan Maguire at his website: danmaguiremusic.com   

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. 

Sessions from Studio A - Extinguish the Sun

Jul 9, 2020
WNIJ

Things are getting heavy on this week's edition of Sessions from Studio A featuring alternative metal band Extinguish the Sun, from Dixon, IL. We will hear songs performed live from their debut album, Antihero, and their latest EP Oceans, which was released last October. Check out their full set in Studio A and an interview with the band right here. It's a headbanger edition of Sessions from Studio A this week with Extinguish the Sun! 

New Genres

We are officially in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. This means summer programs can return but COVID-19 safety precautions must be taken. Some programs were canceled before this new phase. Two northern Illinois communities came up with alternate options.

The Rockford Area Arts Council, New Genres Arts Space and United Way of Rock River partnered to create New Ways. This summer art program is for children ages 11 to 15. The focus is on new media. This includes animation, video editing and audio art.  

Rockford Art Museum

Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan is now in place. Some businesses are preparing for the public’s return. A northern Illinois museum is one of them.

The Rockford Art Museum is opening its doors again on Monday, July 6.

Carrie Johnson is the executive director and curator of the museum. She said the staff started to plan for this about a month ago.

http://www.jenevansart.com/

Some people may ask the question, “Are race relations changing in America?” Others aren’t just thinking about it. They’re taking action. An Aurora artist is helping to lead this change in her city.

Jen Evans is Aurora’s director of public art. She’s held this title since October 2017. Before that she worked as the interim executive director at Water Street Studios in Batavia. She also taught college art classes for about nine years and worked as a refugee health coordinator for DuPage County.

Karen Fullett-Christensen

We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees. But what about poems? Aurora’s poet laureate is giving that illusion to those who pass by her home.

Karen Fullett-Christensen has a "Poet Tree" in her yard.

She said she read an article in the Illinois State Poetry Society newsletter that highlighted an Evanston woman with a Poet Tree.

On Nov. 20, 1934, a brand new symphony brought a Carnegie Hall audience to its feet. The concert featured the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by its star conductor Leopold Stokowski. The music was the Negro Folk Symphony, by the 35-year-old African American composer William Dawson.

Sessions from Studio A - Gurler Folk Music Festival

Jun 25, 2020

Like so many events this summer, DeKalb's annual Gurler Folk Music Festival had to be postponed due to COVID-19. But we wanted to find a way to celebrate the festival's 20th anniversary, so we are bringing the festival to you this year. Join us for a celebration of folk and traditional music with performances from Dave Balika and Friends, roots and jazz guitarist Jim Kanas, and folk trio Heath, Nathan, and Jessie.

Freeport Art Museum

Many nonprofit organizations across Illinois are feeling the financial blow of COVID-19. A northern Illinois art museum is working to stay afloat -- despite the setback.

Staff at the Freeport Art Museum jumped into action when Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the stay-at-home order back in March.

Jason Judd is the executive director of the museum. He said the first thing they did was look at legislation that could help them.

An Art Safari Is Coming To Downtown Rockford

Jun 13, 2020
https://www.facebook.com/317ArtCollective/

This month started Phase 3 of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Residents are able to slowly resume some extracurricular activities. A Rockford arts community is partnering with local venues to give people something to look forward to this weekend.

The Rockford Area Arts Council and 317 Art Collective  is having an “Art Safari.”

Mary McNamara Bernsten is the executive director of RAAC. She said the event was going to be drive-thru only.

https://www.facebook.com/rogue1tba

The death of George Floyd ignited protests across the country. But some communities also experienced looting. Aurora was one of them. A local artist used graffiti to help beautify what was destroyed. WNIJ delved into the history of this “City of Lights” artist.

Sam Cervantes was driving through the city’s downtown area on his way to work.

“This is at 8:30 in the morning and there's just droves of people with brooms and dustpans,” he said.

Then he saw them boarding up windows.

Join us for two modern guitar virtuosos on this week's episode, Fareed Haque and Goran Ivanovic. The duo released a pair of albums in the 2000's to critical acclaim, but busy schedules and other musical endevours put their playing together on hiatus. That hiatus came to an end this year with the duo's new album IndoBalkan.

https://www.gorockford.com/resource-center/our-journey/

Two Rockford-area nonprofits and a local business are teaming up to support artists and art organizations in Winnebago County. 

Sessions from Studio A - Jim and Sam

Jun 4, 2020
WNIJ

In 2017, singer-songwriters Jim and Sam accomplished something few artists could ever imagine doing: they played a concert every single day for a whole year. The journey took them all across the United States and through 14 different countries.

She Goes By Devan

Jun 4, 2020
Photo provided by Devan.

Aurora continues to showcast artists during its virtual First Fridays. An artist from Sandwich is making a splash in the city's art scene.

The 27-year old artist simply goes by Devan. She started out doing art when she was six.

When the story of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police began making news last week, Anthony McGill felt something roiling up inside him.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. NPR Music's Tom Huizenga recently spoke with Pulitzer-winning composer Steve Reich, who has been keeping busy with the solitary act of writing a new piece from his winter getaway in Los Angeles.

Who: Steve Reich
Where: Los Angeles, Calif.
Recommendation: Keep on working

Sessions from Studio A - Pioneer Salesmen

May 21, 2020
WNIJ

Pioneer Salesmen are a four-piece band from down south of the state in Alton, IL. Their music is high-energy with infectiously catchy hooks and riffs. They have a sound inspired by the classic rock of the 60's mixed with more modern rock bands like Arctic Monkeys.

Photo provided by Kendra Holton.

Theatre has been a part of society for at least 2500 years. Northern Illinois University is making sure it continues, regardless of the pandemic.

As it has in the past, NIU is hosting theatre camps for middle schoolers and high school thespians. This time, the camps are virtual. Kendra Holton is an assistant professor at the university's School of Theatre and Dance. She says it will be a different experience online, but kids and their parents can still expect an excellent experience.

Mastering Theater In The Midst Of COVID-19

May 12, 2020
Guy Stephens

Performance theaters across the country have closed their doors due to COVID-19. This has caused cancellations of community shows and other services. But one northern Illinois theater is continuing to engage with its community, despite closures.  

The Paramount School of the Arts in Aurora offered master classes before the COVID-19 pandemic. These classes were offered in conjunction with every Broadway show and taught by artists who were a part of that show. The classes are now virtual.

In these days of uncertainty, music can provide a safe haven, an escape, or even a boost of energy. I've found all of that and more in a new recording of the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the second oldest of Johann Sebastian's musical sons, and a composer who continually fascinates me.

Rockford Area Arts Council

Families across Illinois have had to adapt to e-learning due to the stay-at-home order. But with the school year winding down, they’ll soon have to adapt to another new normal -- the lack of summer activities. A Rockford organization has made the decision to postpone its summer camp programs until 2021.

The Rockford Area Arts Council has summer art programs for children of all ages. There’s ArtsPlace, ArtsPlace II and RAAC camp.

Carolyn Olson / carolynolson.net

We are living through historic times: How are you documenting them?

Art? Poetry? Photos? Music? We’d love to see what you’ve been creating during our stay-at-home order.

Send us your original poems, essays, and photos! Take pictures of your painting, drawing, sculpture, or whatever visual medium you’re working in. Send us a link to your performance of an original song. We’ll share them on our website.

Email your submissions to WNIJpix@niu.edu

Sessions from Studio A - The Honey Dewdrops

May 7, 2020
WNIJ

We left Studio A for this week's episode and headed to Severson Dells Nature Center in Rockford, where we caught a set from Baltimore husband and wife duo, The Honey Dewdrops.

The Honey Dewdrops performing "Silver Lining" live at Severson Dells Nature Center

Connie Kuntz

We have a winner.

"Stay Home Songs" is a songwriting contest sponsored by Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was launched in April to provide a creative platform for musicians to highlight the resiliencey of Rockfordians amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nick Povalitis is the vice president of marketing and sports development for the RACVB.  He says there were 25 entries comprised mostly of individual songwriters, but, he said "a couple [of] bands, a couple [of] mother/daughter combos and a high school" also competed.

Poetry In The Midst Of A Pandemic

Apr 28, 2020
https://www.facebook.com/AuroraPoetLaureate/

April is National Poetry Month. Aurora’s poet laureate Karen Fullett-Christensen and the City’s deputy poet laureates talked about the power of poetry and how this pandemic is influencing their writing. The conversation took place Monday on Facebook live.

Fermina Ponce is one of Aurora’s deputy poet laureates. She said she can’t avoid writing about COVID-19.

“I’m not unaware and my creation and my muse is not getting detached or free from what we are living,” Ponce said.

'Making People Laugh Is What Makes Me Want To Live'

Apr 24, 2020
Picture provided by Rudy Ruiz

COVID-19 has caused uncertainty in the lives of many. During hard times, in the past, people found relief by attending comedy shows. But what do you do when comedy clubs are closed and the comics are left to find humor for themselves? A few northern Illinois comedians share how they are making it through this pandemic.

Rudy Ruiz is a comedian from Aurora. He said he misses the stage.

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