Arts

Arts and culture

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.

Sessions from Studio A - Micky Torpedo

Apr 23, 2020

We have a unique episode of Sessions from Studio A this week. Like so many others, the current pandemic has put our normal work on hiatus. Join us for a special "quarantined" edition of the show featuring ambient music from Rockford's Micky Torpedo.

Micky is releasing four ambient albums this year, based on the changing moods of each season. We'll hear music from his Winter and Spring Cycle albums this hour. We also sat down to chat virtually with Micky about his approach to writing music, as well as his involvment in Rockford's Rock and Roll Institute. 

3-Minute Films Wanted From Students In Grades 1-12

Apr 20, 2020

The Rockford Area Arts Council wants your kids to create short videos not just for fun, but for educational purposes.

Alone Together is a film showcase for students in grades 1-12 in Winnebago, DeKalb, Boone and Ogle counties. They are encouraged to shoot a short, creative video about any subject that interests them. RAAC Executive Director Mary McNamara Bernsten said this includes artistic subjects like dancing and drawing but also math, science, and foreign language.

Sessions from Studio A - Public Radio Music Day

Apr 16, 2020

Listen to a special edition of Sessions from Studio A this week, as celebrate the first ever Public Radio Music Day. Sessions has been on the air for 4 years and has had over 100 artists featured on the show. In this episode, we'll take a listen back through the years to a variety of performances recorded for Sessions from Studio A.

Ean Miles Kessler

 

Ean Miles Kessler is a Chicago playwright. He's originally from Hamden, Connecticut, but has also lived and worked in New York City and Miami. In 2018, he "made the leap" and moved to the Edgewater neighborhood in Chicago. "It's a great neighborhood in a great city," he said.

Facebook/ Facebook.com/pg/HempClubJewelry/

Art fairs are common around springtime but for a lot of vendors this year, it’s not business as usual. That’s due to COVID-19 and social distancing. Two Fox Valley Area artists found a way to help bring in revenue, despite what's going on. 

Kelsey Rankin is the founder of Hemp Club Jewelry. She worked with her friend Laura Lynne to create a Virtual Artisan Market. 

Some people respond to suffering by turning it into art. That's true even with the harrowing experience of a pandemic.

In the early 1400s, an Englishman named John Cooke composed Stella celi, a hymn to the Virgin Mary referencing the Black Plague which, according to some sources, wiped out half of Europe. Its text speaks of the "ulcers of a terrible death" but also the assurance that "the star of heaven ... has rooted out the plague."

Sessions from Studio A - Dark Heart News

Apr 9, 2020
WNIJ

Dark Heart News is a high-energy rock and roll trio from Chicago. They have a wide range of influences from rock legends like Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The White Stripes, to blues masters such as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Hear Dark Heart News' full performance in Studio A right here!

You can keep up with the band and purchase their music at their website

The Rockford Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau (RACVB) wants you to stay home and write songs. 

"Stay Home Songs" is a community song writing contest that is open to all ages and all types of musicians. There is no fee to enter and all genres of music are welcome. Musicians who live in Winnebago County and  may enter one original song that is less than three minutes long.

Rockford is getting not just one, but two poets laureate -- an adult and a youth.

The adult poet laureate position will be a two-year position, and probably one year long for the youth. Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) Executive Director Mary McNamara Bernsten said the committee is still working that out. But, she said, people may start nominating poets next week.

Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the world's leading composers, died Sunday at the age of 86. The Polish Ministry of Affairs announced his passing in a tweet. No cause of death was given.

The Polish-born composer established himself while still in his 20s with jarring atonal works such as Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, and came to be widely admired by music fans and musicians far outside traditional classical music circles.

Bob Myers

Someday, the COVID-19 pandemic will be history. And that’s why one DeKalb County photographer is urging people to document it now.

Bob Myers took his wife’s advice. She’s DeKalb County historian Sue Breese, and she encouraged him to photograph the empty store shelves, the empty parking lots, and the altered daily interactions that are now part of life under the State’s stay-at-home order. In turn, Myers turned to social media to ask other DeKalb County residents to join the effort. For him, it’s important to keep the project local because it “makes it hit home more.”

When Víkingur Ólafsson was about 5 years old, he already knew what he wanted to be. "It sounds crazy, but I always saw myself as a concert pianist," he says. "Even if I wasn't a good pianist."

Sessions from Studio A - Crystal Gravy

Mar 26, 2020
WNIJ

Join us for the music of Crystal Gravy, of DeKalb, IL. They are a love-struck duo who even spent their first date writing their first song. We'll hear their performance in Studio A and talk with Crystal Gravy about their writing process, their relationship, and much more. We will even learn what "Hotel Stew" is.

Keep up with Crystal Gravy by following their Facebook page. Find more of their music streaming on Spotify and available for download on Bandcamp!

Slam Poetry -- "The Points Are Not The Point"

Mar 26, 2020
Yvonne Boose

National Poetry Month is coming up in April and earlier this month Kishwaukee College held an interactive poetry workshop called, “So You Wanna Be a Slam Poet.” 

Some people may be familiar with spoken word poetry or may have attended a poetry reading. Bear Wolf is the adjunct professor of English at Kishwaukee College. He said there is a slight difference between spoken word and slam poetry. 

Kartemquin Films

An important figure in the world of documentary film has been hospitalized in Chicago with COVID-19. Kartemquin Films co-founder Gordon Quinn was admitted to Northwestern Hospital Wednesday night after having difficulty breathing.

Connie Kuntz

Alfred Stark is a woodblock printmaker from DeKalb. He also makes and flies his own kites. I followed him for a day to a couple places that are meaningful to him.

We started at Gordon's Hardware Store, where he has worked for nearly 20 years. "I fix screens and windows and help people," he explained. He said he enjoys helping customers with things they "definitely need" plus he likes his coworkers.

"It's nice working with a small group of people," he said. "We all know each other pretty well." 

Join us for the music of Fuzzlove on this week's Sessions from Studio A! This genre-blending band from DeKalb has a huge range of influences from jazz, to funk, to hard rock. They stopped by Studio A and played some new, unreleased songs that the band has planned for their upcoming sophomore album.

Keep up with Fuzzlove by following them on their Facebook page.

Morning Edition's series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

In this edition, NPR's classical producer Tom Huizenga makes the case for the charming, danceable St. Paul's Suite by Gustav Holst, who's best known for his symphonic juggernaut called The Planets.

Connie Kuntz

Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) held an open house at the Shumway Market on Thursday. They celebrated their new executive director, the newly retired Sharon Nesbit-Davis, and their home's renovations. 

Some of the renovations of their home at the Shumway Market include new furniture and a fresh display of art on loan from Rockford Art Museum. The art was created by local artists. 

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