Monthly Archives: July 2021


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

Artists Support Community Vaccination Efforts

Artists across Illinois are contributing their talents to help communities get vaccinated.

Springfield – As restrictions are lifted, the arts and culture sector in Illinois recognizes
that continuing to get their audiences and communities vaccinated is important for safely
getting back to in-person arts activities. Artists in 24 regions across Illinois are creating
72 pro-vaccination projects this summer as vaccines now are widely available.
Three projects are made possible by collaboration between Arts Alliance Illinois and
Springfield Area Arts Council.

“Artists in every genre were deeply affected by the pandemic,” says Sheila Walk, Arts
Council Executive Director. “Although the venues in which to exhibit or perform their art
were closed, their creativity never stopped. The Arts Council is pleased to offer this
opportunity to area performers, and I know these artists will design powerful messages in
unique formats. Certainly, I appreciate Arts Alliance Illinois for providing funding for artist
stipends, and I look forward to seeing what artists statewide will create through this
program. To protect oneself and one another, it is important that Illinois citizens get the
COVID vaccine, and I hope these artist-designed messages encourage people to be

Four Springfield performing artists have taken on the challenge of creating messages
designed to promote vaccination. Dancer Julio Barrenzuela is organizing a salsa dance
party and family picnic that includes on-site vaccinations. Reggie Guyton, actor and
director, is working with others to create spoken word pieces that address some
common concerns about the vaccination while highlighting the benefits. Musical duo Idle
Oath will write and perform an original song to promote receiving the immunization and
is hiring a visual artist to animate the lyrics.

Vaccination is especially important to the arts and creative sector. Even as the state
moved to Phase 5 on June 11, lifting restrictions on restaurants and businesses, many
cultural centers and venues remain closed and still are managing capacity-limits while
projecting decreased revenue due to state social-distancing recommendations. The arts
industry is eager to return to the work of bringing communities together.
Participating regions include Aurora, Bloomington, Carbondale, Centralia, Champaign-
Urbana, Decatur, DuPage County, East St. Louis, Elgin, Evanston, Galena, Galesburg,
Joliet, Lake County, Mattoon, McHenry County, Oak Park, Peoria, Quad Cities, Quincy,
Rockford, Southeast Suburban Chicago (Dolton, Calumet City, Lansing), South Suburban
Chicago, and Springfield.

arts alliance illinois logo

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 multi-
disciplinary 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.

Learn more about these projects at ->

By |2021-07-20T10:55:40-05:00July 20th, 2021|News|Comments Off on Artists Support Community Vaccination Efforts

House Subcommittee Votes on Cultural Agency Funding for Fiscal Year 2022

Last week, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee took significant action on their work to fund the government for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The Interior Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), sets funding levels for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and other cultural agencies. 

The committee voted to accept the Biden Administration’s funding request of $201 million for the NEA and also included $201 million for the NEH to keep the agencies funded in tandem. This is a potential increase of $33.5 million over the FY 2021 budget for both agencies, the largest increase in their history! This is the result of tireless advocacy from around the country, an Administration that understands the value of the creative sector, and bipartisan support in Congress.

During the subcommittee vote, Rep. Pingree said, “The cultural sector has been particularly devastated by COVID-19, and this funding will help to support relief and recovery for community organizations across the country.”

Next, the bill will go before the full House of Representatives for passage. This process will take place over the next several weeks, and the full House vote is anticipated to happen prior to the planned August congressional recess. After the appropriations bills pass the House, the same process begins in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Visit Americans for the Arts Action Fund for more information on how you can help advocate for increased funding for cultural agencies.

By |2021-07-05T15:01:23-05:00July 5th, 2021|advocacy, News|Comments Off on House Subcommittee Votes on Cultural Agency Funding for Fiscal Year 2022