Arts

Jennifer Kuroda

Audubon Mural Project Rockford is hosting a free Zoom event on Tuesday night with the goal of bringing more bird murals to Rockford.

Photo provided by Byron Forest Preserve

The Byron Forest Preserve wants you to learn about a groundbreaking environmentalist through a free Zoom event this Sunday.  

 

Rachel Carson is the author of Silent Spring. In 1964, less than two years after it was published, she died from breast cancer. But her message about protecting the environment lives on.

 

Leslie Goddard is a scholar and an actress. She will bring Carson "back to life" at the Zoom event. 

 

 

Pec Playhouse Theatre

February’s near-record winter weather took its toll this week on the home of a northern Illinois community theater. Pec Playhouse Theatre in Pecatonica announced Friday that the roof of the auditorium in its building collapsed Wednesday under the weight of accumulated ice and snow. No one was injured.

Along with the roof, most of the auditorium's lighting and heating systems came down into the seating area. 

A Princeton theatre festival is celebrating love with a virtual Valentine cabaret.   

Frank Monier is the assistant artistic director of Festival 56. He stated that the theatre didn’t do much until last November and he said the group prides itself with bringing live shows to the area. 

Will Liverman is a young baritone and a new, exciting voice in the opera world. He is also on something of a mission.

In school, the artist was rarely introduced to Black composers. It was a cumulative interest, patched together by YouTube clips and introductions from colleagues. Now, he wants to expose listeners to music that he feels doesn't get programmed enough in concert halls or receive enough airplay on classical radio stations.

Paramount Theatre

A northern Illinois performance theater gives marginalized voices a chance to be heard with its new project.

 

The “Inception Project” presents virtual readings hosted by Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. It’s made possible with the help of a Healing Illinois grant. 

Paul-Jordan Jansen, the artistic associate for the project, said the grant helps put a spotlight on work done by artists of color.

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.

WNIU Encore Participation Signup

Nov 20, 2020

  Encore features performance and commentary from regional classical musicians.  Eric Hradecky  is your host for these premier broadcasts on WNIU.

We are proud to present an encore presentation of Encore - due to COVID this season we are sharing some of the great performances we have previously captured and shared. We also look forward to bringing you recordings of recent socially-distanced performances.

Connie Kuntz

"River Weaving” by John Siblik is environmental art that you may have seen if you’ve gone by the Kishwaukee River in DeKalb recently. It features 90 elements made of willow, stone and steel. They curve and bend into the water, creating a shape like a hunter’s bow. But the art doesn't hunt fish and wildlife -- it hunts litter. 

"We found a lot of cans, a lot of bags and a mattress," Siblik said. "And a coronavirus mask, some shoes, a hairbrush...lots of booze bottles."

A northern Illinois community came together this weekend to help paint a mural. That’s despite a dispute over the planning process.

Artist Joshua Schultz was tasked with creating the artwork. He said he had no doubts about people showing up to help. 

“I think that the thing about Aurora and downtown Aurora and the friends of Aurora,” he said, “is that everyone really just wants things to get better and be better and have a good time making them better.” 

Schultz shared that he has absolute faith in the Aurora community.  

Denezz Hyphenx Cochran

Christopher D. Sims is an African American poet and human rights activist in the Rockford area. He was featured in WNIJ’s “State of the Artist” podcast last year.

Sims said these protests, which were sparked by George Floyd’s death, have been different from demonstrations he’s attended in the past. For one, he said, more young people took part.

“But the young people are just as heartbroken and angry, as all of us, any of us in this country,” he said.

He said he is proud of the Rockford Youth Activism group for organizing Tuesday’s protest at Haskell Park.

Claire Buchanan

Stage Coach Players community theater formed a COVID-19 task force in April to find ways to give back to a community they say “has given so much to them.”   

The task force is hosting a fabric giveaway and food drive each Tuesday at the DeKalb theater.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Something To Smile About

Apr 6, 2020
Amy Nelson

 

 An Aurora photographer is capturing sunshine in the city by adopting a project that started in Boston.  

Amy Nelson said a friend told her she should participate in the Front Steps Project. This project was started by Cara Soulia and Kristen Collins. Soulia is a Boston photographer who decided to take pictures of people sitting on their front steps. Photographers across the nation joined in.

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.

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." 

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.”

Connie Kuntz

The first time I met Nate Woogen, I didn't actually meet the man, I met the man's writing, specifically a scene from his screenplay, "Physical Therapy Massacre." I saw actors performing it at a cold reading presented by Naked Angels. 

Nate's screenplay is about a violent physical therapist who is cruel to vulnerable people. The crimes take place inside a dirty gym that was converted into a clinic for people with disabilities. The setting was inspired by an experience Nate had at an unsafe clinic he visited many years ago for his ataxic cerebral palsy.

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.

We'll find out why tearing down old structures doesn't have to mean sending a lot of material to the landfill.  Deconstruction is a process of salvage and re-use.  Hear how one city is embracing that approach.  

We'll talk with some Springfield area artists who put a face on the issue of homelessness. And we have a conversation about an effort to teach and celebrate statesmanship.

Those stories and more on this week's Statewide.

Egyptian Theatre Hard Hat Tours Showcase Renovations

Jan 22, 2020
Jenna Dooley

The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s sparked pharaoh fever in architecture across the country.

One of the nation’s few remaining “Egyptian Theatres” is housed in downtown DeKalb. When it was built during the stock market crash, air conditioning wasn’t included. That’s been a problem ever since, says Executive Director Alex Nerad. He says there was an attempt to turn the building into a parking lot in the 1970s.

State Of The Artist: What's In A Name?

Jan 15, 2020
Connie Kuntz

State of the Artist continues with a Rockford woman who makes decoupage. Decoupage involves gluing and arranging paper cutouts on a variety of surfaces. It's a form of expression that has special meaning for artist Valerie Gibbons. 

I met Valerie Gibbons at the Rockford White House that sits high on the hill at Spring Creek and Alpine in Rockford. It used to be someone's home, but now it's a professional office space, and it's where Valerie founded the nonprofit FootsieStools Ltd.

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?

Jingle All the Way

Dec 24, 2019

American composer James Pierpont published "One Horse Open Sleigh" more than 160 years ago. Today, the song is known by most everyone as "Jingle Bells."

Connie Kuntz

Christopher D. Sims, aka UniverSouLove, is a poet, spoken word artist, performer, and human rights activist. I followed him for a day in the city where he was born and raised: Rockford, Illinois. I picked him up on a Sunday morning in December at his home in the Jackson Oaks neighborhood. When he got into my car, he had C. L. Smooth playing on his phone.

He said, "He has a very fluid, poetic delivery. I grew up on his music in the late 80's and early 90's. He's very proximate to my musical knowledge, my understanding of rap, and how it's supposed to be done." 

A short documentary on The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

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.”

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