Sitting in Mercado on Fifth’s indoor venue with other artists and cultural leaders, Gaye Shannon Burnett spoke with state officials about the lack of accessibility the African American art community has to information and aid and how they deserve a seat at the table.
Burnett is board president and co-founder of the Azubuike African American Council for the Arts. Hers and other local institutions were invited by the Illinois Arts Council Agency to talk about their concerns with the group that supplies grants and other resources.
“I think that we’re capable of directly dialoguing with the Illinois Arts Council, and I think we’ve earned it and we deserve it,” she said.
Members of the Illinois Arts Council Agency visited Rock Island, Moline and East Moline last week as part of their state-wide listening tour, where they are meeting with arts organizations to collect information on how they’ve fared since the COVID-19 pandemic and how the agency can better help them.
The goals of the state agency are to support the Illinois arts sector, encourage arts education for all and promote creativity and working artists.
Agency Executive Director Joshua Davis-Ruperto, Deputy Director Encarnacion Teruel, Board Chair Nora Daley and Program Director and ADA Coordinator Teresa Davis spoke with Quad-Cities artists and arts and culture groups throughout the day, joined by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s wife, M.K. Pritzker.
“What I love about this community is that there are so many wonderful leaders that are fighting for everybody,” Davis-Ruperto said.
One leader Davis-Ruperto specified was Quad City Arts Executive Director Kevin Maynard, who gave a presentation on the organization’s programs.
“This has been just an incredible opportunity to talk about the incredible things that are happening in our community,” Maynard said. “Honestly, getting to spend half a day highlighting the incredible arts and culture in the Quad-Cities, that’s the dream, and being able to share that with the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and M.K. Pritzker, it’s great.”
At Mercado on Fifth in Moline, one of the topics brought up by multiple Quad-Cities organizations was access to information on grants and other opportunities through the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
For smaller, majority- or entirely-volunteer groups or individual artists, finding time to look through everything the Illinois Arts Council Agency has to offer is difficult or even impossible. A bridge should be built between them and the entities hoping to help them, Mercado Community Navigator Program Manager Greg Aguilar said.
He also agreed with Burnett’s point about needing marginalized communities to have a larger voice in the arts community and having one-size-fits-all grants rather than ones meant to make the industry more equitable aren’t helpful.
Daley acknowledged a lack of communication from the agency in the past and said one of the reasons they are traveling now is to better connect with communities and learn what they need, rather than continue with a top-down approach.
“These are public dollars. We want to make sure we’re better stewards of these public dollars,” Daley said.
Looking at next steps, Maynard said he’s already planning to work with Davis on incorporating more about programming into the Quad City Arts website, as well as resources from the state agency in order to provide as much information as possible to those in the Quad-Cities searching for it. During the listening tour, other organization leaders mentioned connecting with the agency for future collaboration.
Davis-Ruperto said the Quad-Cities was the last stop in a three-week trip for a couple of weeks before the Agency members venture out again. The information they’ve gathered will be combined with data from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and brought to the grant team. Then they’ll travel again to actually experience shows and other aspects of communities’ arts scenes, then share the changes they plan to implement.
While not directly involved in the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Pritzker said she was happy to be able to join the group for the Quad-Cities leg of the tour and learn more about the area’s arts scene.
It’s important that communities have the opportunity to both showcase their successes and voice their concerns with the statewide agency in order for them to collaborate on new ideas and continue to dazzle residents with art, cultural events and more, she said.
“I think in our country now, we’re so divided politically, and I think the arts and community are a way to unify people,” Pritzker said. “I think it’s very important to our culture and to our health as a nation and a community.”
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Region: Northern,City: Quad Cities,Region: QC,Local
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March 13, 2023 at 06:30AM