Monthly Archives: March 2020


An Inside Look at the Nation’s Largest High School Poetry Recitation Contest

Amy Stolls, Director of Literary Arts, National Endowment for the Arts wrote a recent blog post giving a backstage look at the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest


In this age of texts and tweets, a poem reminds us that there is beauty in our language, in the world, in ourselves, and in others. In this age of search engines and quick answers, poetry reminds us to feel that unique pleasure in wondering about what we don’t know. When the world can sometimes feel divisive and hard, poetry allows us to enter the depths of anger, sadness, fear, and shame until we can’t look away, and also of love so that it grows exponentially. It can make us laugh. In an age of fast-paced change, it teaches us to slow down and embrace silence. Used by ancient people to pass down stories at a time before written language, poetry is an old art form that can clear a path towards a more empathetic future.

Read the full article at Education and Career News

By |2020-03-31T05:38:24-05:00March 31st, 2020|News|Comments Off on An Inside Look at the Nation’s Largest High School Poetry Recitation Contest


Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the third phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response relief package. This $2 trillion emergency stimulus package includes direct support for both nonprofit cultural organizations and state and local arts and humanities agencies, as well as economic relief provisions for independent contractors, “gig economy” workers and artists, entrepreneurs, and small businesses working in the creative economy.

Specifically, the bill includes the following arts-related items to address the continuing damage caused by the COVID-19 virus:

Federal Arts Funding (Note: This is a supplement to their annual appropriations)

  • $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
  • $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Special note: Congress accepted our ask to waive matching grant requirements and to waive the requirement for grants to be project-specific. All these new fast-track grants will be for general operating support with no match.
  • $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • $50 million for the Institute of Library and Museum Sciences
  • $25 million for the Kennedy Center
  • $7.5 million for the Smithsonian

Community Development Block Grants, Small Business Administration, and Unemployment Insurance

  • $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants to cities and counties. Arts groups should work directly with their mayors and local economic development offices for grant support.
  • $350 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency loans of up to $10 million for small businesses—including nonprofits (with less than 500 employees), sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals (like individual artists)—to cover payroll costs, mortgage/rent costs, utilities, and other operations. These loans can be forgiven if used for those purposes. This new eligibility has been a key element of the CREATE Act we’ve been pursuing;
  • $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for loans up to $10,000 for small businesses and nonprofits to be used for providing paid sick leave for employees, maintaining payroll, mortgage/rent payments, and other operating costs;
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance (UI) that includes coverage for furloughed workers, freelancers, and “gig economy” workers. The bill also increases UI payments by $600/week for four months, in addition to what one claims under a state unemployment program.

Charitable Giving Tax Deduction

  • An “above-the-line” or universal charitable giving incentive for contributions made in 2020 of up to $300. This provision will now allow all non-itemizer taxpayers (close to 90% of all taxpayers) to deduct charitable contributions from their tax return, an incentive previously unavailable to them. Additionally, the stimulus legislation lifts the existing cap on annual contributions for itemizers from 60 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 100 percent of AGI for contributions made in 2020.

The inclusion of these provisions to help nonprofits, the arts sector, and the creative workforce can be attributed, in part, to the incredible grassroots outreach by arts advocates across the country, coordination with national nonprofit coalitions, and Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund.

Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund provide offer additional information on how this crisis is impacting the arts in their  national economic snapshot survey and dashboard and their COVID-19 Resource Center. They are also planning a series of webinars through the ArtsU platform to present experts and guidance to the field to help navigate through these new federal provisions during this challenging time. Visit their website for more information.

By |2020-04-16T14:25:14-05:00March 26th, 2020|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on ARTS SUPPORT INCLUDED IN FEDERAL COVID-19 RELIEF BILL

Illinois makes history in advancing arts education for all students

CHICAGO / SPRINGFIELD – Today Illinois made history, becoming the first state in the nation to include the arts as a distinct, weighted indicator of K-12 success in its school accountability system. The arts – dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts – now stand alongside subjects such as math and science in how the state measures the impact of every public school in Illinois.
“This decision is a monumental win for our children in Illinois,” said Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director, Claire Rice. “The arts teach students to think critically and solve problems creatively. Arts learning also enhances student engagement and improves school climate, and the weighted arts indicator brings us one step closer to ensuring all students experience these benefits of arts education.”
In its meeting today, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unanimously voted to approve State Superintendent Carmen Ayala’s recommendation for the arts indicator in Illinois’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. Starting with the 2022-23 School Year, the indicator will equal 5% of every school’s total score. It will consider student participation in arts courses, quality of instruction, and student voice.
Dr. Ayala’s recommendation was based upon the innovative, data-informed proposal presented to the Board last year by the Illinois Arts Indicator Work Group. This statewide work group, co-chaired by Arts Alliance Illinois and Ingenuity, consisted of 27 members representing arts education organizations, teachers, administrators, and other key stakeholders.
Developed over the course of three years, the indicator affirms the arts as essential to student success and will incentivize schools to provide high-quality arts learning. It will also open the door to new support for arts education and lead to a greater data-based understanding of arts education in Illinois. In fact, the Work Group’s Data & Research Team, led by Ingenuity, conducted the most extensive analysis to date of Illinois statewide arts education data.
The Board’s decision follows years of collective organizing by arts education advocates across Illinois. The State Board received over 5,500 comments in support of the arts indicator and the work group’s proposal over three years – more than the combined total of all other comments related to ESSA.

“I want to acknowledge all of the hard work of our partner Arts Alliance Illinois, the work group and thank all the ISBE board members and staff, especially Dr. Ayala, for their tireless efforts to include the weighted arts indicator,” said Paul Sznewajs, Executive Director of Ingenuity. “The unprecedented action taken by ISBE will help drive progress towards equitable access to high-quality arts education for every student, in every grade, at every school in Illinois.”

About Arts Alliance Illinois
Arts Alliance Illinois fights for arts resources and policies that benefit our members and all Illinois residents. With 25,000 active subscribers and hundreds of members, we connect the people and ideas that are shaping the future of the creative sector. As the only multidisciplinary organization concentrated on the strength of arts and culture across the state, the Alliance takes on challenges that no single organization or artist can fight alone. Our work in civic engagement, arts education, and cultural equity positively impacts every community across the state. Visit to learn more.

About Ingenuity
Ingenuity is a backbone arts education 501(c)(3) with core programs in data, advocacy, grant-making, and professional learning. The organization’s collective-impact approach to arts advocacy drives partnerships, insights, and investments in the arts for 350,000 students in Chicago Public Schools. A nationally-recognized arts advocacy leader, Ingenuity has advanced the most progress in CPS arts education in 40 years. Learn more at

By |2020-03-20T16:10:20-05:00March 20th, 2020|News|Comments Off on Illinois makes history in advancing arts education for all students

Old Capitol Farmers Market Application Now Live

The Old Capitol Farmers Market is sponsored by HSHS St. John’s Hospital and provided by Downtown Springfield, Inc. in cooperation with Springfield Area Arts Council. It is a producer-only farmers market located in the heart of Downtown Springfield at or near the corner of 4th and Adams Street. The 2020 season of the Old Capitol Farmers Market operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a total of 25 weeks, beginning Wednesday, May 13th and ending Saturday, October 31st. This is a total of 50 Market Dates. The Market will take place every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Rain or Shine.

Market Mission
The Old Capitol Farmers Market strives to:

  • Support small farms and local growers by providing a venue to directly market their goods.
  • Strengthen the local economy by providing a venue for the public to connect with local growers, artisans, musicians, and entrepreneurs.
  • Build community by providing a public gathering space for community members to engage, interact, and exchange ideas with the people and projects around them.
  • Encourage healthy lifestyles through increasing availability of fresh produce and locally raised food.
  • Celebrate the diversity of locally-grown food and artisan products that are unique to Springfield and central Illinois.
  • Support, revitalize, and grow downtown Springfield by increasing foot traffic and patronage to the downtown area.

If you are interested in becoming a vendor at the 2020 Old Capitol Farmers Market, the application is now live. Once you have completed your application, it will be reviewed for approval. If you are approved you will receive an email notification and an invoice. Payment is not due until after the application is processed.

If you have any questions, please contact the Market Manager, Kayla Graven, at or the Downtown Springfield Inc. Office at 217-544-1723 or text 217-718-4494.


By |2020-03-15T05:33:18-05:00March 15th, 2020|News|Comments Off on Old Capitol Farmers Market Application Now Live

2020 Illinois State Poetry Out Loud Contest Winners

Photograph of Hsu and Weidner (William Richards, photographer; Award designed by Jensine Stickley)




“Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.”

These lines from “To Autumn” by John Keats were among those recited by Charles Hsu (Deerfield High School), the 2020 Illinois State champion in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.  The competition was held on Monday, March 2, 2020, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield.

To win the competition, Hsu also recited “Learning to love America” by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim and “I Am Offering this Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca.  Hsu will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C., in late April.

Elizabeth Weidner from Teutopolis High School was declared the runner-up.  Rounding out the top five were Scottlynn Ballard (Edwardsville High School), Jada Cox (Jefferson High School, Rockford), and Sylvia Hughes (Eureka High School).

The Illinois State Contest featured recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regional contests in the state:  Belleville, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago-City, Chicago-Metro, Rockford, Rock Island, and Springfield.

 Photo: The Contestants

Other students participating from around the state:

Nada Abdulaziz, Jefferson High School (Rockford)

Nereyda Anguiano, Rolling Meadows High School

Regan Cook, Bureau Valley High School (Manlius)

Erin Englebright, Agape Christian High School (Marion)

Paige Graves, Agape Christian High School (Marion)

Catherine Herrera, Taft High School (Chicago)

Grace Lambert, Sacred-Heart Griffin High School (Springfield)

Arian Mizan, University of Illinois Laboratory High School (Urbana)

Adam Stein, Freeburg High School

Alishiana Uyao, Mather High School (Chicago)

Taylor Walton, Orion High School

  Photo: Judges (left to right) : Anderson, Betts, Duchrow, Mathis, Chesley, Degler-Whitmer 

Contest staff for the 2020 Illinois State Contest included 

Recitation Judges:

Tara Betts, Chicago – poet and teacher

Stephen Duchrow, Elgin – performer and arts administrator

Karen Hunter Anderson, Rochester – educational administrator and writer

Rapheal Mathis, Chicago – poet and performer

Accuracy Judge:  Théa Chesley, Springfield – poet and librarian

Prompter:  Julia Degler-Whitmore, Mattoon – singer and arts administrator

Scorekeeper:  Bob Jessup, Springfield

M.C.:  Jim Leach, Springfield

Special guest at the contest was Susan Dickson, program director at the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Poetry Out Loud in Illinois is a collaborative project of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and seven arts agencies, each of which hosts a regional contest.  The Poetry Out Loud:  National Recitation Contest is a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through analysis, memorization, performance, and competition.  The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

In Illinois this year, 42 high schools were part of Poetry Out Loud.  210 teachers.  More than 10,000 students.

“Among the benefits of the Poetry Out Loud program is that it helps young women and men find something they’re good at.  These students are so brave and talented and insightful,” said Sheila Walk, contest organizer, during the post-contest reception, “and they are competitive yet supportive of one another.”

More information is available at or from the Springfield Area Arts Council.

Photo: Hsu and Dickson

Photo: Weidner and Dickson

By |2020-03-27T18:00:06-05:00March 9th, 2020|News, Poetry Out Loud|Comments Off on 2020 Illinois State Poetry Out Loud Contest Winners