Report for America

https://www.gorockford.com/things-to-do/public-art/

Lots of art is exhibited in downtown Rockford. But most times, there is a cost associated with this. Donor support is allowing the continuation of a certain public display.

The Rockford Sculpture Walk is normally presented for two years.  

Kristen Paul is the director of destination development for the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She said the 13 sculptures were due to come down in June but the pandemic spoiled that plan.

Photo provided by George Buss

Creativity is not taking a back seat to COVID-19. Some performances are happening with the use of the technology. An Illinois history group is joining in on the fun.

The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition will virtually host: “Lincoln, The Great Communicator.”

Sarah Watson is the executive director of Looking for Lincoln and the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. She said seven shows will take place live. Partner communities will host them on their Facebook pages.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Rockford’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners voted unanimously to dismiss a formal complaint against the city’s police chief.

Commissioners found no probable cause to proceed to an evidentiary hearing over a formal complaint alleging that Police Chief Daniel O’Shea violated policy by showing bias and discrimination.

The complaint arose over a comment O’Shea made in May during a news conference.

https://www.sandwichfair.com/

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the world. Not only does it threaten our health, it’s removed things we may have taken for granted. One is attending large gatherings. A northern Illinois county fair is the latest to feel the blow.

The 2020 Sandwich Fair has been canceled. This is the first time that’s happened since its inception in 1888. It's normally held Wednesday through Friday after Labor Day. 

https://www.cedu.niu.edu/c-and-i/about/faculty-and-instructors/koss-melanie.shtml

Conversations about racism have spiked since the killing of George Floyd. Some people have shown interest in learning about different cultures. A northern Illinois educator said there’s a simple way for people to do this.

Melanie Koss is an associate professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at Northern Illinois University. She teaches young adult and children’s literature.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/firstumcdekalbillinois/

A lot of summer programs are not taking place due to COVID-19. Some children depend on lunches from these programs. A northern Illinois church is making sure meals are still being provided this summer.

  

Vicki Boone is the summer lunch coordinator for First United Methodist Church in DeKalb. She said for the past eight summers children came to the church to eat. This year they’re grabbing lunch at the park. 

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.

Pixabay

 

This week the Illinois minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $10 an hour.

The increase is part of the state’s path to a $15 minimum wage by the year 2025. Jason Keller, the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Labor, said workers putting in 40 hours a week should expect about $30 extra dollars a week.

“You know, the intent of the bill is put more money back into the economy when you put it into the workers pockets," said Keller. "They'll spend it in the local economy and everyone will benefit.”

 

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.

Jenna Dooley

 

Conversations at the DeKalb County government’s second virtual forum on race relations broadened this week. Demands for improved housing agreements took center stage.  

 

Jacob Maas voiced concern about uneven housing conditions and agreements that he says are prevalent in the county. 

“You know, we live in a community where it's not uncommon for people who rent to go without hot water, clean water, heat in the winter air conditioning in the summer,” said Maas.

 

Rockford Area Arts Council

Corporations like Netflix, Amazon and HBO have all taken a stand against racism. Some northern Illinois arts organizations are doing the same. This comes after countless protests against racism in America. 

The Rockford Area Arts Council released a statement June 5 saying that they are standing in solidarity with Black and Brown communities.

Mary McNamara Bernsten is the executive director of the Arts Council. She said it's important to speak out.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

This month, people across northern Illinois came together in Rockford to celebrate Juneteenth. They also used the gathering as an opportunity to protest police brutality. Rockford Youth Activism organized the event.

 

But what exactly is Juneteenth? Here is a brief history as told by those who gathered at Ellis Elementary on June 19th, 2020.

 

Those are the voices of Aija Penix, Laura Bates, Carolyn Cadigan, Aaron McAllen, Harlan Johnson, Toni Thomas, and Minister James Davis.

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

Last month a coalition of Rockford nonprofits and one small business announced micro-grants for Winnebago County artists. The first recipients were announced June 23.

Rockford Art Museum

 

  

Due to the pandemic, the deadline for entries has been extended for a juried art exhibition that takes place every two years in Rockford.

The 76th Rockford Midwestern Biennial’s deadline was originally June 15. It is now June 29.

Carrie Johnson is the executive director and curator of the Rockford Art Museum.

She said the museum understands that many artists are caught up in dealing with the effects of COVID-19.

Jenna Dooley

 

Some DeKalb residents want the city’s Mayor Jerry Smith to be more specific on plans to address police brutality.  

 

The mayor spoke at a town hall Thursday night at Hopkins Park. The gathering was a forum on reforms related to justice and equality. Smith expressed support for its aims, but said he couldn’t talk details at the forum. 

 

Dana Chaplin of Preservation Heart Photography

A DeKalb chef is partnering with a nonprofit to supply residents with warm meals.  

The DeKalb County Community Gardens started serving “Pay-As-You’re-Able” meals at the Genoa Area Community Food Hub back in January.

The plan was for this to take place monthly but COVID-19 changed that.

Heather Edwards is the associate director of DCCG. She said the organization has worked with personal chef Rudy Galindo before.

https://pixabay.com

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 Thursday to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Two northern Illinois legislators are applauding the decision.  

The DACA program gives individuals who came to the United States illegally as children the option to stay. They can request a two-year deferment, which is renewable. There are several conditions that must be met.        

Rockford United Labor has canceled the Labor Day parade due to concerns over the coronavirus.

 

This will be the first time in the parade’s 66-year run that it is altogether canceled. Jay Ferraro, who is a delegate on the Labor Day Committee, says that putting together a parade in the middle of the ongoing pandemic felt impossible. 

 

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.

Connie Kuntz

Many people turn to their faith during uncertain times. And two northern Illinois faith communities are making sure their members are supported.

George Davis is a member of the Spiritual Assembly Baha’is of Rockford.

Davis said the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly offered guidance for both COVID-19 precautions and handling the death of George Floyd.

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.

Connie Kuntz

It's been more than two weeks since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in Minneapolis. One police officer is charged with murder and other officers face charges related to the death. Floyd's killing has spurred protests around the country including northern Illinois.

 

   

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s office released a statement in response to accusations of mistreatment of inmates at the county jail.

 

The 815 Mutual Aid Network is a Rockford-based collective dedicated to providing resources in the surrounding area amid the pandemic. It alleges that on June 2nd a group of Winnebago County Corrections officers assaulted several inmates, leading in one case to a broken arm, and then shot tear gas into their cells. 

 

City of Rockford

After over a week of protests in Rockford, Mayor Tom McNamara has released a statement with a working list of four steps designed to address police brutality and misconduct.

 

Mayor McNamara has signed onto the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance which promises incremental police reform via “common-sense limits on police use of force with feedback from the community.”

 

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. 

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.

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.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

This week in Belvidere, autoworkers are returning to the assembly line for the first time since Fiat Chrysler shut down operations in March amid the coronavirus outbreak.

WNIJ spoke with William Vergara, an autoworker at the Belvidere Assembly Plants going back to work this week. Vergara says he's been taking every precaution when it comes to social distancing.

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