Arts

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.”

Connie Kuntz

Printmaker and painter Manny Tang comes to Illinois by way of Taipei, Taiwan and New York, New York. Her art is displayed throughout the state in galleries and small businesses, but our interview began at her home in Loves Park. When her husband Don Foster invited me in, it took me a minute to find the woman whose artist name is China Cat. She was in another room, leaning out of a window feeding Gracie, a feral cat who stops by for food and attention.

"She was very skittish at first. It took her a full year before we earned her trust, but now she is here every day."

Connie Kuntz

Playwright Douglas Post was the first guest on State of the Artist. Listen to his interview (audio is above) or learn more about the playwright here.  

This interview originally aired on June 24, 2019 on 89.5 and WNIJ.org.

Guy Stephens

An exhibition in Rockford closes this Saturday with a live musical performance by the artist. She'll interpret animated images she created.  It’s part of an effort by a new gallery space to promote art that goes beyond the paintbrush.

New Genres Art Space co-founders Jason Judd and Iga Duchalska usher their visitor into a large, high-ceiling room on an upper floor of the Rockford Public Library’s Nordlof Center in downtown Rockford. It’s one result of a partnership between the institutions.

Ann Marsden / libbylarsen.com

A piece by acclaimed American composer Libby Larsen will be given its world premiere this weekend at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The work is inspired by the true stories of migrants.

State Of The Artist: The Devil Is In The Details

Oct 16, 2019
Connie Kuntz

Some people honor Christmas in their hearts all year round. Haunt Mistress Ann-Margret Naber is a little different.

"Halloween is my favorite holiday. I've loved Halloween since I was a small child and ever since I was small, I have loved art," she said.

She shared a memory.

"I was coming home from school. It was just kind of turning dusk. The leaves were falling and I was so anxious to go trick-or-treating. I was a clown. To this day, I still love Halloween." 

To this day, Ann-Margret still loves art, but is afraid of clowns.

courtesy of Henriette Agnes

Everyone has a story to tell. And one northern Illinois woman has found a way to tell hers, 77 years after Nazis dropped the Blitzkrieg on her doorstep.

World War II started for five-year-old Henriette Kraus on May 10th, 1940.

“I woke up. And there was a lot of noise, and my sisters in their nightgowns, looking out the window. So I went there, too,” she recalled. “And here is the tanks, the trucks, everything is coming down the street. The airplanes are flying over. I mean, I didn't know what was happening. You know, that's how the war started. For me.”

Sessions from Studio A - Brother Ryan

Sep 26, 2019
WNIJ

This week on Sessions from Studio A, we feature the music of Brother Ryan. Starting as a solo project for singer-songwriter Robby Ciganek, the band now includes a rotating lineup of musicians that join Robby live. Check out their performance in Studio A as well as an interview with host Carl Nelson, where they discuss the bands roots and the meaning behind their new album, Forest

State Of The Artist: A Generous Heart And All That

Sep 6, 2019
Connie Kuntz

Kim Schultz is an actor, writer, storyteller, and refugee advocate. She has lived in Chicago for six years.  I followed her to the places that are meaningful to her in and around Chicago. 

Sessions from Studio A - Taylor Rogers

Aug 29, 2019
WNIJ

Hear the music of Taylor Rogers on this week's Sessions from Studio A. Taylor Rogers is a singer/songwriter from Chicago who blew us away with her live looping of guitar and vocals to create rich and textured soundscapes. 

Taylor Rogers performing "8900" in WNIJ's Studio A.

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