Larry Kuster, board secretary for Jacksonville Center for the Arts, welcomed everyone to their annual press conference in which local arts organizations are provided a forum to announce plans for each of their 2016-2017 seasons. After thanking Playhouse On The Square for opening their doors for the event, Kuster proudly announced that, “Jacksonville is a destination for the arts where approximately 100,000 people annually have come to arts events in Jacksonville. The arts have a greater than $2 million impact on the Jacksonville economy.” The organization proudly displayed a rendering of the preliminary design for the new civic center that would potentially house many of these organizations under one roof. He reminded the room that that while the arts means entertainment, the arts also means business. “The arts organizations in attendance today mean a collective effort in maintaining, supporting and invigorating the cultural and the economic life of our community,” Kuster stated in his closing.
He then introduced Deeana Warbonnet, who represented the Jacksonville Art League, as well as the Imagine Foundation. The first announcement came that the Gallery Hop is going through some changes. The first, and most evident, of these would be the discontinuation of the “Hop” during the winter months of January, February and March. From now on, they will only occur during the spring and fall months. Warbonnet also stated that during Imagine’s 11 years, there have been many changes to its programming and emphases throughout the years and they are currently making some major changes, all the while maintaining their level of excellence. The following events that have been popular at Imagine will be repeated again during this new season. First, a cocktail party on September 16 from 6:30 – 9 p.m., celebrating the new book by Poet Laureate Joseph J. Kozma, will be held at The Soap Co. Coffee House with live music, poetry performances, refreshments and a short program by Dr. Kozma. This event is free and open to the public. All of Dr. Kozma’s books will be available for purchase. Second is a “Rockin’ Tea Party,” the annual September event. Enjoy live music by Jeff Newman’s Kitchen Singk, a delicious authentic English high tea and artwork. The events also include: their annual “Poetry Variety Show,” which is a celebration of all sorts of poetic styles; their annual January Exhibition of Nudes for adults only, which exhibits nudes from the discreet to the graphic; and their “Dark Gypsy Jubilee,” which has dancers, performers, artists, tarot cards, body painting and so much more. Additionally, the “Kids’ Art Club” is held during the school year for young people who want to create for an hour on the second and fourth Thursdays in the months of September through May. They also host a “Young Leaders in the Arts” two Saturdays a month – sometimes they work on an art project and sometimes a community outreach project. For more information about any of these or other events, call them at 217-473-2726 or visit their website at www.imaginearts.org.
Warbonnet spent most of her time speaking about Imagine, but did reveal that the Jacksonville Area Art League, located on South Main in the building next door to the genealogy building, provides studio space for anyone who needs a space to work on their art and store their supplies. The League is open Monday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday evenings.
Next up was Nancy Taylor Porter, Illinois College’s associate professor of theatre and department chair, announced the new season for IC’s Theatreworks. The theme for 2016-2017 is titled “Out Of This World,” and will include three productions. First up is a new adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic, “Frankenstein,” a new adaptation written and directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Aasne Daniels. It is a memory play showing the embattled Frankenstein, on the last legs of his journey trying to find and catch up with his “creation,” retelling their story to his ship’s captain. This original production will open October 29 and run November 3-5 at 7:30 p.m. and November 6 at 2 p.m. at the Sibert Theatre. Daniels will also direct the winter slot show, “Cloud Tectonics”,” by Jose Rivera. Rivera puts magical realism to good use in the play by distorting our conceptions of time, space to enhance the world of his play. Set in Los Angeles, this play will feature three Hispanic actors and features a mysterious pregnant woman (or goddess, perhaps) who stops clocks when she enters the scene. The dreamlike love story opens February 25 and runs March 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. and March 5 at 2 p.m. in their Icebox Studio Space. Closing out the school year, Porter will direct the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Angels In America,” by Tony Kushner. The play was written during the tragic A.I.D.S. crisis in 1993 and was groundbreaking at the time in its way of telling different stories and crosscutting them into each other onstage in almost a film format. The central characters struggle with their religious, sexual, spirituality, social identities and illness; all the while, they navigate their relationships with family members and significant others. This powerful and transformative play opens April 22 and runs April 27-29 at 7:30 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. at Sibert Theatre. Call 217-245-3471 or email email@example.com.
Dana Ryan spoke on behalf of the Art Association of Jacksonville and the David Strawn Art Gallery and reminded us that Strawn had been a private home donated to the city of Jacksonville in 1915. They are embarking on their second century of serving the Jacksonville community by offering the art experience at low costs. The 2016-2017 David Strawn Art Gallery season consists of: Charlotte Cziperle and her abstract oil paintings from September 10-25, a mixed media sculpture exhibit from October 1-30, local artists’ exhibit (Will Musgrove with photography, Marvin Ford with hand-carved decoys and Herschel Carriger with wood turnings) from November 5-7, Doug Bergeron and Brian Mackenzie with a photography exhibit from December 3-23, Billinda DeVillez with a mixed media painting exhibit from January 14-26, local artist Jamie Oliver with a gouache on panel painting exhibit February 4-26, blown glass exhibit by Randy and Joy Turner that includes photography by Josh Merrill March 4-26, Mark Hirsh’s “That Tree” photojournalism exhibit from April 1-30 and Mary Lou Hicks with Pastel Paintings May 6-28. Each exhibit hosts a free opening night reception at 6 p.m. with the opportunity to meet with the exhibiting artist.
Ryan continued by announcing the Art Association of Jacksonville’s “A Year at the Strawn Art Gallery” events, including these notes: the fall walking tour of historic sites is in September, fall art classes for adults and children begin a 6-8 week course in October at the Strawn Gallery studio, January is full of winter art classes and workshops and the kick-off parties for their Beaux Arts Ball, this year’s Beaux Arts Ball will be April 29 at 7:45 p.m. at The Bowl with receptions following at Strawn or the Jacksonville Country Club or at Hamilton’s, and the summer art classes and workshops which will begin in June of 2017. For information about membership to the Art Association or any of the above exhibits or events, contact the Gallery Director Kelly Gross at 217-243-9390 or go to their website at www.strawnartgallery.org.
Playhouse On The Square was next up with Kim Shafer representing. Their new season begins with the raucous comedy about America’s favorite pastime, baseball; “Bleacher Bums” is being directed by Rich McCoy. This 1977 play takes place in the bleachers at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, where die hard Cub fans root for their team. The group includes a rabid cheerleader, a blind man who follows the game by transistor radio and does his own play-by-play, a bathing beauty, a nerd and various other bleacher denizens. As the game proceeds, they bet among themselves on every conceivable event, go out for frosty malts or beers, try to pick up the bathing beauty and, occasionally, watch the game. It runs September 16-18 and 23-25. Also, Ken Bradbury revives his play, “Memories of Mama Thinking of Dad,” This staged reading was the first production to christen the Playhouse stage. The show will run for one weekend only, October 7-9. Another staged reading happening in October will be “Farmscape: The Changing Rural Environment,” directed by Dorothy Hutchison-Gross. In late 2007, Mary Swander, Iowa’s poet laureate and a professor at Iowa State University, assigned her students a verbatim play about the challenges farmers face. She wanted them to learn the complexity of the farming issue, how political and even how contentious it can be. Fanning out across the state, the students, many of whom had never set foot on a farm, conducted lengthy interviews with farmers big and small, and immersed themselves, literally, in the agrarian world of livestock, slaughter and commodity crops, all while gingerly dancing around manure patties. Back in the classroom, they pulled key elements from the interviews and, as playwrights, began to stitch together the dialogue. The final result was a grassroots play that takes on everything from corporate consolidation to GMOs, climate change, and the rise and fall of the family farm. It runs for one weekend only, as well, October 14-16. All shows of these shows have 7:30 p.m. curtains Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For more info: http://playhouseonthesquare.net.
Garrett Allman presented the seasons for both the Illinois College Fine Arts Series and Jacksonville Symphony Society. This season, the Fine Arts Series brings a variety of musical and dance experiences that will celebrate their theme of “Community.” September 8 opens the new season with “The Choir of Gonville and Caius” from Cambridge University, U.K. This choir was founded in the late 19th century and is one of Britain’s world-renowned collegiate choirs. On October 29, award-winning organist Scott Montgomery from Champaign, Illinois WHAT??? This is not a sentence … . “Heinavanker,” the Estonian accapella vocal ensemble will perform November 19. They are known for their amazing blend and perfect intonation, a true delight for the ear. “Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company,” from St. Louis, will be bringing its uplifting dancers on January 28 and includes native Laura Roth as one of their lead dancers. February 17 will showcase the “Equinox Chamber Players” from St. Louis. This woodwind quintet was featured in the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary, “Continental Harmony,” and they have been heard nationally on PBS and NPR. Ann Homann, of Waverly, is the oboist for the group. The season concludes with the debut of a Boston-based trio (flute, viola and piano) called “Ensemble Aubade” on April 7. All events this year will take place at IC’s Rammelkamp Chapel at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the dance company, who will perform in the McGaw Fine Arts Building. For more information, visit the fine arts website at www.ic.edu/fas.
Dr. Allman changed “hats” to represent the Jacksonville Symphony Society (JSS) by announcing their exciting 54th series, entitled “Celebration.” The new season will open with “Celebrate the Bard,” marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare with a concert inspired by his works and featuring the acclaimed bass/baritone and Jacksonville son, Ryan Kuster, on October 8. November 5 is all about “Celebrating the Intimate” with an entire program dedicated to chamber ensembles and the intimate music they elicit. Once again, the JSS will “Celebrate the Holidays” with their annual holiday concert with both the orchestra and the chorale on December 3. They “Celebrate Our Youth” every year in February, as well, with their day of youth concerts for area school children. March 25 will be a time to “Celebrate the Silver Screen and the Video Screen.” This pops concert will once again bring together both the orchestra and the chorale for an evening of favorite movie music and even some music from video games that the young and the young at heart will recognize. JSS will close out the season and “Celebrate the French Horn” on May 6 by inviting a return visit from Jacksonville native, William Lane, to treat us to his exciting French horn solos. All of the concerts are held at Rammelkamp at 7:30 p.m. (except for the Christmas concert that is held at 3 p.m. and the youth concerts that are held during the school day at MacMurray College’s Annie Merner Chapel). For more info, visit their website at www.jaxsym.com.
Jeannie Zeck came forward with exciting news that MacMurray College has a new student organization concentrating on theater arts, with advisor Russell Walker. The new group, “Mac Avenue,” recently announced that they would be producing a play in November. Details will soon be coming once dates and rights/royalties are finalized. Zeck also announced that she would be directing the dramatic, “The Lonely Soldier Monologues,” by Helen Benedict. It is a powerful play taken directly from interviews with real female veterans who served in the U.S. military during the war in Iraq. The interviews, originally conducted by Benedict, are a potent and unflinching look at war and the stark realities women face day after day in combat around the world. Why they enlisted, what they endured and how it affected them when they came home. Keep watching for more details about this poignant and moving work at Mac’s Blackbox Theatre!
Ken Bradbury entertained the room with his usual wit and excitement about this year’s work at Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC). The touring theatre troupe that will visit many of the local grade schools in our area is cowboy-themed this year, “… a young cowgirl goes in search of what’s really important in life.” Bradbury spoke about last spring’s extremely successful “Traveling Theatre” experience that moved its audience from place to place to see history come alive in different historical landmarks in Jacksonville. As he was working on his script, many of the hosting venues asked him if he included some of the ghost stories that were infamous in their spaces. He soon realized that every stop in last year’s tour had a ghost story and it has inspired this year’s script, so he’s begun working on a haunted Jacksonville theme for second semester. In addition, the students will work with three different elementary schools teaching them improv skills this year. Be sure to watch in The Source for all of these upcoming event times and places for LLCC.
It is an exciting year in Jacksonville for our arts and our art lovers. Larry Kuster closed his portion of the conference with a huge thank you to, “… all who support and make the arts happen. You certainly are part of the economic development of this community.”