Rahele Megosha from South Dakota Named 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion

2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Rahele Megosha. Screenshot by James Kegley from Poetry Out Loud national finals video submission

2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Rahele Megosha. Screenshot by James Kegley from Poetry Out Loud national finals video submission

Washington, DC—Following recitations of poetry by Linda Pastan, Jehanne Dubrow, and Mary Lamb, Rahele Megosha, a senior at Washington High School in South Dakota, was announced as the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion during last night’s national finals webcast at Megosha will receive a prize of $20,000.

The second-place winner is Kendall Grimes, a junior at Battle Ground Academy in Tennessee, who receives a $10,000 prize. The third-place winner is Soojin Park, a senior at Auburn High School in Alabama, who receives a $5,000 prize. The remaining six students who competed in the finals will each receive a $1,000 prize. The schools of each of the top nine finalists will receive $500 to purchase poetry materials.

This is the 16th year that the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation have partnered with the state and jurisdictional arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a program that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry—both classic and contemporary—through memorization and recitation. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded for Poetry Out Loud. The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts.

In a short video about the impact of Poetry Out Loud, Megosha said: “Being able to get to know these different poets and their different poems, it really helps me understand the multitude of perspectives that exist in this world and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”

Last night’s national finals were the culmination of the 2020-2021 Poetry Out Loud program, with thousands of students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa participating during this school year. Both the national semifinals and finals took place virtually in 2021, with state and jurisdictional champions submitting pre-recorded videos that were reviewed and scored by judges based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. Read more about all 55 state and jurisdictional champions in the national finals program book.

The National Endowment for the Arts also recently announced the 2021 winners of the Poetry Ourselves, a second competition open to the Poetry Out Loud state and jurisdictional champions to highlight their original poetry. Read about the winners of that competition on the NEA’s website.

By |2021-06-01T01:14:30-06:00June 1st, 2021|News, Poetry Out Loud|Comments Off on Rahele Megosha from South Dakota Named 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion

Artist on the Plaza Begins 2021 Season June 1st

The Springfield Area Arts Council’s mission is to enrich the community through the arts.  To help fulfill that mission, the Arts Council produces an outdoor summer performance series called Artist on the Plaza.  The performance series is free to the public and features local talent.  Funding for the 2021 season comes from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Artist on the Plaza

Takes place every Tuesday and Thursday between Memorial Day and Labor Day (June 1 – September 2)

12:00 – 1:00 P.M.

On the Old State Capitol south lawn (near Fifth and Adams in downtown Springfield)

This concerts are family-friendly and are the perfect way to spend a lunch hour or to take a break from seeing the sites.

Bring lawn chairs or blankets.  Shade provided.  Free.  Accessible.


June                                                      August

1 Robert Sampson                           3 Adrian Russo

3 Josie Lowder                                  5 St. Andrew’s Society Dancers

8 Dennis Darling                                10 Jaden Saunders

10 John Drake                                    12 Tom Irwin

15 Colin Helton                                  17 Prairie Winds Flute Ensemble

17 After-school Special                  19 Capital City Big Band

22 Messengers for Christ              24 Derrick Streibig

24 Springfield Dance                       26 Tad Derek O’Brien

29 Mike Anderson                           31 Sam Crain

July                                                        September

1 Craig Russo                                      2 Peaches and Bacon

6 Erica Egger

8 David Tell

13 Phil Steinberg

15 Rhodes and Battles

20 Arlin and Erin

22 Ian Wick

27 Springfield Theatre Centre

29 Micah Walk

Attached:  Art by local artist Jim Edwards

By |2021-06-01T01:04:30-06:00June 1st, 2021|News|Comments Off on Artist on the Plaza Begins 2021 Season June 1st

We’re asking for $500Million for Illinois arts and culture! Other states are going big: New York just passed a one-year budget that gives over $200 million in dedicated funds for the arts, plus $800 million in recovery grants, California legislators are championing a $1 billion package for the arts. Illinois must invest!  

The American Rescue Plan dollars coming to our state are meant to help the people and industries hardest hit by COVID. Arts venues were the first to close and are likely last to reopen. Arts education is getting cut when students need it most. We need big action from the state, with priorities for BIPOC and rural communities. Please email/call your legislators to support the Illinois Creative Future Fund! 

We were the first to close and will be the last to reopen. Ask your state legislators to dedicate $500 million to the arts! This is the last week of the legislative session, now’s the moment. 

Read the full proposal and take action here:

By |2021-05-25T11:16:39-06:00May 25th, 2021|advocacy, News|Comments Off on


SPRINGFIELD, IL. May 14, 2021 – The Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series, a 10-week series of free and live music presented by PNC Bank, is coming back to Springfield for a second season June 3, through Aug. 5. The concerts will showcase a diverse lineup of high-caliber talent from across the country, performing at 6 p.m. each Thursday, on the vacant block north of the Illinois Governor’s Mansion. For a full schedule of concerts and additional information about the artists, visit

The first season in 2019 attracted more than 7,700 attendees and was voted “Best Free Entertainment” by Illinois Times readers. The event’s second season was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020 but postponed due to COVID-19.

“We strongly believe in the correlation between access to the arts and enhancing communities,” said Brian Ray, PNC regional president of Central Illinois. “Bringing back this music series to downtown Springfield will allow our neighborhoods to once again come together, in a safe and socially distant environment, to celebrate a diverse and culturally rich experience.”

“Following the extraordinary challenges of the past year, the power of public space and live music to nourish our well-being and create shared experiences has taken on even greater importance,” said Sharon Yazowski, executive director of the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation. “We’re excited to see Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation and its partners breathe renewed energy into the Y Block through the return of the Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series, inspiring joy and a sense of community for all who come.”

Admission is free and the public is invited to bring their own picnics, blankets, lawn chairs and enjoy the concerts. In order to safely accommodate larger crowds, organizers are painting large circles – or pods – on the grass to allow for social distancing. Attendants are asked to wear face masks except when sitting inside 8×8-foot pods, in groups of up to six people. These pods are available on first-come, first-served basis.

Attendees also are encouraged to support local restaurants by picking up takeout on their way to the block to serve as their picnic. Beverages will be available on site for purchase. Restaurants interested in serving food to concert-goers should fill out the form at

Generous series sponsors include the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Isringhausen Imports, US Bank, Levi Ray & Shoup, Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation, the Illinois REALTORS, Springfield Park District, City of Springfield, Wyndham Springfield City Centre, Central Baptist Church, La Piazza, Springfield Jaycees, Star Graphics, Springfield Area Arts Council, Republic Services and Downtown Springfield Inc.

Other sponsors include the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce, Urban Action Network, Kerber Eck & Braeckel, Conn’s Hospitality, Heartland Coca Cola, NPR Illinois’ Nightsounds, Cavanagh & O’Hara, Springfield NAACP, Midwest Family, Capitol Radio Group, Neuhoff Media, plus Aldermen Shawn Gregory, Kristin DiCenso, Joe McMenamin, Jim Donelan and Erin Conley.

Those interested in volunteering at the concerts should contact the Springfield Jaycees at

Follow Levitt AMP Springfield on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for updates and weather changes.


About PNC Bank

PNC Bank, National Association, is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC). PNC is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking including a full range of lending products; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management. For information about PNC, visit

About The Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series

The Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series is supported in part by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a private foundation that partners with towns and cities across America to activate underused public spaces, creating thriving and inclusive destinations where people of all ages and backgrounds come together through the power of free, live music. In 2021, free Levitt concerts will bring a broad array of musical experiences and high-caliber artists to communities nationwide. Learn more at


  • The Springfield Park District will be hosting children’s activities during each evening of the concerts.
  • The Springfield Jaycees will host their annual dog pageant with the series on Thursday, July 1.
  • The Juneteenth Celebration Committee and Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce are co-hosting June 17 as the first night of a weekend-long celebration of Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, as it commemorates the last slave becoming free on June 19, 1865.
  • The HipHop Xpress, an internet-connected mobile classroom and sound studio inspired by George Washington Carver’s Jesup wagon, will be parked on 4th Street during a performance in June so that people can make their own music during the intermissions.
  • The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum’s new exhibit, “State of Sound: A World of Music from Illinois,” explores the incredible contributions Illinois has made to music through music, video and stunning artifacts, including a Cheap Trick guitar and Mahalia Jackson’s first record. The exhibit is open to the public 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, just a few blocks from the Y Block.
By |2021-05-18T22:42:12-06:00May 18th, 2021|Levitt AMP, News|Comments Off on SEASON TWO OF LEVITT AMP SPRINGFIELD TO START THURSDAY, JUNE 3

RFQ: Springfield-Sangamon County Transportation Center 10th and 11th Street Murals

Sangamon County is pleased to announce a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to professional artists or firms to create permanent original art or installations for one or two public murals that will be located outdoors at the new Springfield Sangamon County Transportation Center in Springfield, Illinois. The project timeline will begin later this summer with final installation in summer of 2022.  RFQ applications due June 11, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.

More Information and How to Apply (PDF)

If you have any questions about this RFQ, please email them to Sara Jimenez at by May 21, 2021. She will gather all of the questions from applicants,
answer them and post them to the Sangamon County website no later than May 28, 2021.

By |2021-05-16T22:57:33-06:00May 16th, 2021|News|Comments Off on RFQ: Springfield-Sangamon County Transportation Center 10th and 11th Street Murals

Watch the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals on May 27, 2021

Who will be named the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Champion and receive a $20,000 prize? Out of 55 state and jurisdictional champions who competed in the national semifinals, nine high school students are advancing to the Poetry Out Loud national finals, which will be webcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host an evening of recitations by the top nine finalists, with live interviews with the students and the announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists are:

  • Alabama Champion Soojin Park (Auburn High School)
  • Colorado  Champion Aidyn Reid (Fountain Valley School)
  • Nebraska Champion Alexandra Rose Zaleski (VJ and Angela Skutt Catholic High School)
  • South Dakota Champion Rahele Megosha (Washington High School)
  • Tennessee Champion Kendall Grimes (Battle Ground Academy)
  • Texas Champion Samuel Eluemunoh (Saint Mark’s School of Texas)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands Champion Kaden A. Hughes (Antilles School)
  • Vermont Champion Irén Hangen Vázquez (Burr and Burton Academy)
  • West Virginia Champion Ben Long (Notre Dame High School

There was one honorable mention announced in each of three national semifinals competitions—Lilian Myers (New Jersey), Morgan Love (Mississippi), and Audrey-Rose Sevaaaetasi (American Samoa).

Congratulations to these students! Please be sure to tune in to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals webcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. ET at All 55 state and jurisdictional champions will be featured.

The 2021 national finals judges are: poet and executive director of Kundiman Cathy Linh Che; poet and NEA Creative Writing Fellow Eduardo C. Corral; poet, educator, and organizer Gabriel Cortez; scriptwriter, breakbeat poet, educator, and director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College Idris Goodwin; director and host of Poetry in America, director of Verse Video Education, and Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University Elisa New, and actor and 2007 Poetry Out Loud national runner-up Branden Wellington.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion, $10,000 for 2nd place, $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th–9th places. The representing schools/organizations of each of the top nine finalists receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. There was one honorable mention announced on May 2 in each of three national semifinals competitions—Lilian Myers (New Jersey), Morgan Love (Mississippi),  and Audrey-Rose Sevaaaetasi (American Samoa). Those students do not advance to the May 27 finals, but will each receive a $1,000 cash award and a $500 stipend for their school or organization. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded for Poetry Out Loud.

The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts. Closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for the Poetry Out Loud national finals.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL21 and #IAmPoetryOutLoud and follow the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation at @PoetryOutLoud@NEAArts, and @PoetryFound.

By |2021-05-18T20:32:39-06:00May 11th, 2021|News, Poetry Out Loud|Comments Off on Watch the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals on May 27, 2021

24th Biennial On My Own Time Exhibit Program Seeks Participation

The Springfield Area Arts Council is pleased to announce the return of the On My Own Time program in 2021.  This biennial visual arts program gives employees of participating organizations, businesses, government agencies, and medical and educational institutions an opportunity to showcase their creativity and accomplishments through artwork completed outside working hours.

Says program coordinator Rosemary Buffington:  “On My Own Time is one of the best ways to bring employees together.  They learn that those they work with daily also are creative on their own time through artistic endeavors after hours.”

Says Sheila Walk, Arts Council executive director:  “It is good for both employers and employees because it reveals so much hidden talent.  And it is good for the community to know that so much artistic ability resides here.”

Eligible artwork includes paintings and drawings, fiber and needlework, pottery, photography, jewelry, glass, metal, wood, and paper.

The deadline for organizations to commit to participate is May 14.  Each participating organization hosts an In-house Exhibit; those begin on October 1.  Judging occurs from October 12 to 21.

Based on a city-wide standard, the artwork from each participating organization will be judged by a panel of specialists and awarded a First, Second, or Third Place.  First Place-winning artwork is displayed in the Citywide Exhibit to be held November 3-20, 2021, at the Nelson Family Gallery at 700 North Fourth Street, Springfield.

Arts Council volunteers Rod and Rosemary Buffington are coordinating the 2021 On My Own Time program.  For further information about participating in this program, please call or email the Springfield Area Arts Council at 217-753-3519 or

By |2021-04-22T09:32:42-06:00April 22nd, 2021|News|Comments Off on 24th Biennial On My Own Time Exhibit Program Seeks Participation

The Expressions Challenge Now Accepting Entries

The Walgreens Expressions Challenge is a contest that allows high school students the opportunity to express what’s on their minds and hearts through the arts.

Here are the details:

– The challenge is open to high school students (13-18).

– There are three entry categories (spoken word, visual arts, and media arts).

– Students can enter each category if they choose (but one entry per category).

– Students can submit previously created work or create something new.

– Students can work alone or in groups.

– Students can choose any topic.

– Twelve students/groups will be awarded $2,000!

– Video, audio (max 3 minutes) and image files accepted only (no text files)

– Entries are due March 31.

Visit for more details or to submit your entry.

By |2021-03-22T08:09:18-06:00March 22nd, 2021|News|Comments Off on The Expressions Challenge Now Accepting Entries


Catherine Herrera

Catherine Herrera, 2021 Illinois State Champion

From her mouth perfect words exploded,
intact formulas of light and darkness.
She dared to rhyme with words like cochineal
and described the skies like diadem.
Obscurely worded incantations filled the room
with an alchemy that made the very molecules quake.

These lines from “Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam” by Dan Vera were among those recited by Catherine Herrera (Taft High School, Chicago), the 2021 Illinois State champion in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. The competition was held virtually earlier this week.

To win the competition, Herrera also recited “The Collar” by George Herbert and “Bright Copper Kettles” by Vijay Seshadri. Herrera now will advance to the virtual national competition in May.

Riley Tomes from Wheaton-Warrenville High School was declared the runner-up. Rounding out the top five were Madden Delaney (Franklin High School), Candice Epps (Rolling Meadows High School), and Liesl Schrag (Champaign Central High School).

The Illinois State Contest featured recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regions in the state: Central, Chicago-City, Chicago-Metro, Eastern, Northern, South-central, Southern, and Western.

Other students participating from around the state:
Thaddeus Bergschneider (Franklin High School, Franklin)
Emma Carmona (Jefferson High School, Rockford )
Michelle Castelan (Von Steuben High School, Chicago)
Regan Cook (Bureau Valley High School, Manlius)
Ellyne Crowden (Agape Christian High School, Marion)
Jordyn Ginestra (Edwardsville High School, Edwardsville)
Paige Graves (Agape Christian High School, Marion)
Joshua Merz (Freeburg High School, Freeburg)
Genna Roth (Central High School, Champaign)
Raeanna Tremethick (Jefferson High School, Rockford )
Paige Twidell (Bureau Valley High School, Manlius)

Contest staff for the 2021 Illinois State Contest included
Joanne Diáz, poet and college professor (Bloomington)
Ronald Lybarger, poet and teacher (Decatur)
Rapheal Mathis, poet and performer (Chicago)
Peggy Oulvey, college professor and forensics coach (Glen Carbon)

Théa Chesley, poet and librarian (Springfield)

Bob Jessup, mainframe programmer (Springfield)

David Cain, videographer (Girard)

Carey Smith, writer (Springfield)

Contest coordinator was Sheila Walk (Springfield Area Arts Council). Program manager was Susan Dickson (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, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Statewide this year, 3079 students and 84 teachers from 26 schools entered the program.

“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 supportive of one another.”

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

By |2021-03-17T22:42:20-06:00March 17th, 2021|News, Poetry Out Loud|Comments Off on SPRINGFIELD AREA ARTS COUNCIL ANNOUNCES ILLINOIS STATE POETRY OUT LOUD WINNERS
Load More Posts