Yearly Archives: 2021


2021 First Night® Springfield Coronavirus Update

The Springfield Area Arts Council announces cancellation of most 2021 First Night® Springfield performances and activities set for this Friday due to a surge in coronavirus infections throughout Illinois.

“The weight of wisdom from many corners brought the Arts Council board to this decision,”  said Sheila Walk, executive director of the Arts Council.  “This record-setting rise in cases statewide drives us to protect our performing artists and all our potential attendees in and around Springfield.”

All afternoon and evening events at both the Hoogland Center for the Arts and the nearby First Presbyterian Church will not take place, and there is no virtual or online version.

“We care about art.  We care about our community.  Although this year’s 35th annual celebration of the arts is COVID-cancelled, please join us in looking forward to First Night Springfield 35.0 on December 31, 2022,” said Walk while thanking all who have contributed to the now-scratched event.

Friday Night Jazz, this week featuring Stone Cold Blues Band, will continue as planned from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 pm at Boone’s at 301 East Edwards Street.  Following pandemic protocols is encouraged.

Hoogland Center for the Arts will contact current First Night ticket holders to refund all charges.  For details, contact the Springfield Area Arts Council at 217-753-3519.

By |2021-12-29T20:43:20-06:00December 29th, 2021|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on 2021 First Night® Springfield Coronavirus Update

Springfield Area Arts Council announces 35th Annual First Night© Springfield

Downtown Springfield once again will celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks, crafts, entertainment, and fun for all.

December 31st marks the 35th year the Springfield Area Arts Council has hosted this local celebration of the arts, a family-friendly event enjoyed by tens of thousands since 1987.

“We are proud and excited to offer this event to our capital city again,” said Sheila Walk, Arts Council executive director, adding most activities will take place inside the Hoogland Center for the Arts at 420 South Sixth Street.

Younger folks are invited for artful activities free of charge from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. on New Year’s Eve at the Hoogland.  These afternoon events are presented by Creative Reuse Marketplace, Dana-Thomas House, Garvey-Tubman Center, Illinois State Museum, Lincoln Memorial Gardens, Lowe’s, Springfield Art Association, and YMCA.  Springfield Dance also will perform.  No pre-registration is required.

Friday Night Jazz, free music sponsored for decades by the Arts Council, will take place in early evening at Boone’s, 301 West Edwards (just west of the Illinois State Museum) from 5:30 to 7:30 featuring Stone Cold Blues Band.  Boone’s offers drinks and food for sale; there is no cover charge.

First Presbyterian Church at 321 South Seventh Street will host a locally-written play by Robert Davis to mark Watch Night, an African-American tradition.   It recalls the vigil leading to January 1, 1863, when Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed southern Blacks held in slave bondage.  The play will be performed at 6:00 P.M.  Also in the church sanctuary, at 7:00 P.M., organist and music historian Paula Romanaux will perform works by modern African-American composers.  There is no charge for these First Presbyterian performances, although donations will be accepted.

From 7:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M., many entertainments will roll out inside the Hoogland Center.  Those groups already set to perform include Capital City Improv, International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 239, Spencer Films, Springfield International Folk Dancers, Springfield Muni, and the host Arts Council; other performance groups may be added soon.  Sangamon Watercolor Society will exhibit members’ work in the gallery.  Tickets are $5 for youth and $20 for adults.  They may be purchased at the door or in advance by going to Hoogland’s website:

Performances will take place on several stages inside Hoogland’s spacious four floors.  Guests will receive detailed schedules upon arrival.

Arena Food Services will provide light refreshments for sale during both afternoon and evening in the Hoogland Center lobby.

“While we are thrilled to bring these talents to our Springfield community, especially after their absence for so many months, we still are mindful of pandemic protocols,” commented director Walk.  “We will have masks and sanitizer for everyone who needs them and ask our guests to keep one ballet leap apart whenever they can.”

Fireworks will start shortly after the conclusion of activities inside the Hoogland, at 11:15 P.M.  People are invited to gather at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Fourth Street for the show, which will end in time to reach other destinations for the stroke of midnight.

“Springfield can take pride that this family-friendly, alcohol-free, and fully-accessible New Year’s Eve celebration has so many partners,” Walk said.  She named the City of Springfield for assisting with the fireworks display, the Abraham Lincoln Association for sponsoring the Watch Night play, and the Hoogland Center for providing rent-free performance space annually for seventeen years.  Walk added that the Arts Council will share proceeds from this First Night with the Hoogland Center.

Walk also noted the passing in 2021 of two men long associated with this local celebration of the arts.  Springfield Police Sergeant Robert “Bob” Dilley worked First Night for years and after his retirement volunteered to staff the event’s operations center in the Arts Council office.  Carl “Boom Boom” Steinmacher was lead pyro-technician of all but one of Springfield’s 34 First Nights.  “Both these fine people are missed,” said Walk.

By |2021-12-20T16:36:11-06:00December 17th, 2021|News|Comments Off on Springfield Area Arts Council announces 35th Annual First Night© Springfield

State Journal-Register: Friday night jazz series returns with new name, venue

Springfield State Journal-Register

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Friday night jazz series returns with new name, venue

By Janet Seitz

Upcoming Friday Night Jazz bands

Nov. 5 – Chahrm with Ada Lou

Nov. 12 – Smooth n’ Blue Band

Nov. 19 – Stumpy Joe

Nov. 26 – Frank Trompeter Quartet

The Springfield Area Arts Council is sounding the horns for jazz again.

Uptown Friday Night, a year-round series of jazz concerts held at Robbie’s Restaurant for decades, went on hiatus in March 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Then Robbie’s owner Archer Bailey retired, leaving the Springfield Area Arts Council to search for a new venue.

With musicians and audiences coming out, the jazz series resurrects as Friday Night Jazz and will be held at Boone’s, under new ownership but still locally owned, at 301 W. Edwards St.

The council’s executive director, Sheila Walk, said the new series retains much of the old. ‘We wanted to remain downtown and in a place that is comfortable having live music. It had to be accessible and family-friendly and have food and drink available for purchase but not charge admission. Plus, the venue had to have the appropriate music license and fairly easy parking.’ The 5:30-7:30 p.m. timeframe remains the same.

Walk said this month’s bands are familiar to many, but new bands will debut as the series continues. Generally, a band will only play once a year. This Friday’s event kicks off with Chahrm, known for traditional jazz, vocals and instrumentals.

Walk said the plans are to produce the jazz series year-round indoors or outdoors, keeping health concerns in mind for musicians and audiences. Smooth n’ Blue takes the stage Nov. 12. ‘My groups — Smooth N’ Blue Band, Smooth N’ Blue Duo, Angel Brown Trio, Angel Country Band,’ said Angel Brown, ‘have been most fortunate to continue to perform with the exception of a four-month period when nearly everything was shut down. We have maintained a cautious, considerate approach to performing — masking and distancing in conjunction with vaccines — to protect our venues as well as their patrons. Every venue appeals to a slightly different demographic. We look forward to the opportunity to share our music with a new audience as well as those loyal friends who already follow us.’

‘This program helps the Arts Council fulfill its mission to enrich the community through the arts, Walk said. ‘It’s the kind of everyone wins’ scenario we try to create. Area musicians get paid. The venue attracts more customers. The attendees are entertained. The Arts Council provides free public concerts. Everyone benefits.’

Ada Lou Rogers smiles at the audience as she performs with Chahrm the Band with Ada Lou at Lincoln Land Community College on Feb. 3, 2016. Joining Rogers were were John T. Crisp Jr. on keyboard, Alex Rogers on guitar and Jaro Howse on drums. File/The State Journal-Register

By |2021-11-05T13:08:32-05:00November 5th, 2021|News|Comments Off on State Journal-Register: Friday night jazz series returns with new name, venue


Sketch by Jim Edwards

Uptown Friday Night, a year-round series of jazz concerts held at Robbie’s Restaurant for decades, went on hiatus in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic came to Springfield.  Because Robbie’s owner Archer Bailey retired soon thereafter, the Springfield Area Arts Council had to search for a new venue.  Now that it is safer for musicians and audiences to gather, a new partner for the series has been found.

The Arts Council is happy to announce that Boone’s (301 West Edwards Street, Springfield) will host the best local jazz ensembles each Friday evening.  The renewed series is called Friday Night Jazz.

The new series retains much of the old.  There will be no cover charge; food and beverage will be available for purchase.  The venue is accessible, and families are welcome.  5:30-7:30 P.M. remains the time frame.

November Bands:

5 = Chahrm with Ada Lou

12 = Smooth and Blue Band

19 = Stumpy Joe

26 = Frank Trompeter Quartet

Call Sheila Walk at 217-753-3519 for details.

By |2021-11-01T19:09:58-05:00November 1st, 2021|News|Comments Off on UPTOWN FRIDAY NIGHT Re-starts as FRIDAY NIGHT JAZZ

Arts Council Hosts 24th Biennial On My Own Time Citywide Art Exhibition

The Springfield Area Arts Council’s 24th On My Own Time art exhibition will open on Wednesday, November 3, 2021, in the M. G. Nelson Family Gallery at the Springfield Art Association (700 North Fourth Street, Springfield).  The exhibition will close on Saturday, November 20.  An opening reception will take place on Wednesday, November 3, from 5:30 to 7:30 P.M.  The presentation of awards will begin at 6:15.  The public is invited to attend the reception, which is free, open to the public, and accessible.

Eighty-seven artists submitted one hundred eighty-six works of art to compete in twelve workplace exhibits that were held during October.  A panel of local artists conducted the judging, and all entrants were awarded ribbons for participation in thirteen categories.  Sixty-one pieces of art were selected from the twelve exhibits to receive first place awards, and they comprise the 2021 On My Own Time city-wide exhibit and competition, vying for first-, second-, third-place, and honorable mention awards.  In addition, the Peg Lonson Best of Show Award is given to the overall outstanding art entry in the citywide exhibit.  (Lonson was president of the Springfield Area Arts Council’s Board of Directors from 1984 until 1986, and she later served as Deputy Director of the Illinois Arts Council Agency.  The competition and exhibition is a program she developed in Springfield.)

Rosemary Buffington, coordinator of this year’s program, says, “This is such a worthwhile program both for employees and employers.   It is amazing to see the creativity of those who put in a day’s work and then on their own time create exciting works of art.   The Springfield area is fortunate to have such a tremendous outlet for workers turned artists.”

Participating employers in 2021:

Chatham Public Library

City of Springfield

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Office of the Inspector General

Illinois Department of Revenue

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Illinois State Board of Education

Illinois State Museum

Illinois State Police

Lincoln Land Community College

Office of the State Appellate Defender

Springfield Public School District 186

The Wardrobe

2021 judges:

Bryon Hartley, glass artist

Mary Ellen Strack, artist and educator

Roger Williams, photographer

On My Own Time is organized as a biennial exhibition program by the Springfield Area Arts Council with funding support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.  The purpose of the program is to help local businesses, agencies, and educational and medical institutions identify and celebrate the artistic talents of their employees.

For forty-five years, the Springfield Area Arts Council has sought to enrich the community through public access to the arts with a variety of performing and visual arts programs in Sangamon and Menard counties.

By |2021-10-27T21:32:49-05:00October 27th, 2021|News|Comments Off on Arts Council Hosts 24th Biennial On My Own Time Citywide Art Exhibition

Arts & Humanities Month News

October is National Arts & Humanities Month. Here’s the latest news and and a few ways to help you celebrate.

The Biden White House has released A Proclamation on National Arts and Humanities Month, 2021:

“As our Nation continues to grapple with consequential crises — from combating the ongoing global pandemic and addressing cries for racial justice to tackling the existential threat that climate change poses to our planet — the arts and humanities enable us to both understand our experiences and lift our sights. During this National Arts and Humanities Month, we celebrate the power of the arts and humanities to provide solace, understanding, and healing. We recognize the ability of the arts and humanities to amplify important and diverse voices and messages. We reflect on the fact that, as we have struggled with isolation, anxiety, and the loss of loved ones, we have turned to music and dance, literature and poetry, and philosophy and history to bring us together and help us persevere through, and grapple with, our current moment.”

The Creative Economy Revitalization Act (H.R. 5019/S. 2858) has recently been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. This bill would create a $300 million dollar grant program that will mitigate creative worker displacement, stimulate local creative workforce growth, strengthen connections for local creative small businesses and networks, create a pipeline for new creative jobs, enrich communities, increase access to culture, and invest in creative workers and local economies harmed by COVID-19.  Will you take a moment now to ask your members of Congress to become a cosponsor of this important legislation?

All month long, you can join the celebration of what the arts and humanities mean to you and your community. Click here to see all the ways you can engage this month and get to know the official ambassador of National Arts and Humanities Month, Alora Young, a 2021 Youth Poet Laureate.  And be sure to follow our Instagram where we are participating throughout the moth!

By |2021-10-07T10:01:53-05:00October 7th, 2021|News|Comments Off on Arts & Humanities Month News

5th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Award

This past Saturday, August 21, ILLINOIS HUMANITIES hosted the virtual awards ceremony for the 5th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards. This year’s poems celebrated the bonds of family, friendship, and community while also reckoning with social injustices and national tragedy. You can hear our state’s youngest poets perform their award winning work here, and you can read this year’s winning and honorable mention poems here. The ceremony also included the premiere of “For Young Poets,” an original work by Illinois Poet Laureate, Angela Jackson, which she wrote especially for the event.

Find full details here:

By |2021-08-26T22:16:47-05:00August 26th, 2021|News|Comments Off on 5th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Award

Springfield artists use talents to encourage COVID-19 vaccines | WICS Newschannel 20

Executive Director Sheila Walk and local musician Ren Nickerson of Idle Oath were featured in a report on local projects that use the arts to fight vaccine hesitancy.

Watch the full report on the Newschannel20 website:

Find out more about the program, including updates and photos, on our Arts Vaccination Campaign page.

By |2021-07-29T11:36:05-05:00July 29th, 2021|News|Comments Off on Springfield artists use talents to encourage COVID-19 vaccines | WICS Newschannel 20

‘Back to the Music’ Program Announced

“It’s time to get back to the music

There is an uplifting sense of community in recent days and weeks as we start to see more and more of our neighbors.

That camaraderie captures the spirit of one of the very first grants from the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln toward realizing the goals of The Next 10 – a collaborative community engagement effort for the Greater Springfield Area to define how we take bold steps together for our region’s future. Working to reignite local entertainment by supporting artists’ performances in our community’s restaurants, pubs and venues, the program is appropriately called ‘Back to the Music.’

Every facet of society has felt the brunt of the pandemic the last 15 months, although artists have particularly felt its affliction. With the inability to perform for crowds, Illinois artists and performers experienced a 66% unemployment rate during the pandemic as reported by Arts Alliance Illinois. A $25,000 grant to the Springfield Area Arts Council directly addresses revitalization of local culture as we emerge from the pandemic.

The Back to the Music program addresses a key tenet of The Next 10, furthering the mission of Project #4: A Culturally Rich Community. Not only does this provide economic relief for artists and businesses, but also it revitalizes our culture to bring life and energy to our community. To see the full Visioning Report and learn more about The Next 10, visit

Working with artists across a multitude of genres and backgrounds, the Springfield Area Arts Council is identifying nearly 50 area musicians through its extensive roster to perform in local venues for the program. It provides payment to local artists for performances and gives relief for businesses and venues normally investing hard-earned profits to boost attendance and/or bring in new patrons.

With musicians empowered to approach venues, it provides freedom to local artists to create their own shows. Local musicians – like Virgil Rhodes and Jazz by Footprints or Josie Lowder – can support venues that have supported them in the past or showcase their talents to a new audience.

“Not only were gallery and venue owners safeguarding the public, but also they were cautious regarding their visual and performing artists,” said Sheila Walk, executive director of Springfield Area Arts Council.

“Now that it has become safe to reopen galleries and venues, some assistance is needed. Just as other small businesses received aid during the pandemic, we turn our attention toward community arts. This generous grant will help us get Back to the Music.”

It’s the kind of win-win that the Arts Council and the Community Foundation strive to create – something positive for local artists and businesses and for an eager public awaiting live music.

Stay tuned to the Springfield Area Arts Council’s website and social media to see when and where artists will perform.

Artists lend extraordinary texture and creativity to our community. Let’s show our support to artists as they beautify and enliven Greater Springfield.

To learn more about the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln or The Next 10, visit or call 217.789.4431.”

From Aren Dow, “It’s time to get back to the music,” State Journal-Register, July 4, 2021 (

By |2021-07-29T11:35:09-05:00July 20th, 2021|News|Comments Off on ‘Back to the Music’ Program Announced
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