Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Illinois Governor Tries to Slash Arts Funding

This message from the Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Alliance needs to be acted on by you if you are an Illinois Resident. The Illinois Theatre Association and my own local arts agency, The Buchanan Center for the Arts will see major budget shortfalls if these 35% cuts are allowed to stand in the Illinois Arts Council's 2008 budget.

Governor's Budget Slashes Funding for the Arts
A chorus of voices is needed to restore state's investment in the arts and arts education!
Dear Friend in the Arts,
We must act now to send a powerful message to Governor Rod Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and other state lawmakers that the arts are not pork!
The Governor’s FY08 spending plan calls for a dramatic 35% cut (over $7 million) to the Illinois Arts Council (IAC) budget. This decrease in funding will undoubtedly have a devastating impact to the arts statewide and significantly reduce the funds available for IAC grant programs. Furthermore, the Governor completely eliminated the Arts and Foreign Language grant program through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
This dangerous decision will have very negative implications for all the people of Illinois. Support from the Illinois Arts Council is crucial to the success of artists, arts organizations, and entities providing arts programming throughout the state. Strategic investments made by the Illinois Arts Council to community theaters, dance studios, schools, local festivals, libraries, museums, and park districts enhance our overall quality of life and have a significant impact on the economic health and vitality of the state - creating jobs, boosting tourism, and revitalizing downtowns.
The budget approved by the legislature on August 10, 2007 would have increased the Illinois Arts Council's budget by $3.6 million from last year’s budget level and brought us very close to our goal: a budget of $24 million for the Illinois Arts Council, or $2 per person, per year in Illinois. The budget also would have increased the Arts and Foreign Language grant program at ISBE to over $6 million in FY08 to assist school districts in providing valuable arts and foreign language programming.
The Illinois Arts Alliance is moving forward with an aggressive campaign to restore full funding for the Illinois Arts Council and arts and foreign language education funding at the Illinois State Board of Education. We NEED your help now more than ever before!
Please tell Governor Blagojevich, senate and house leadership, and your state lawmakers TODAY how essential the arts are to you and your community. We have made it extremely easy for you to effectively advocate for the arts. Here is what we are asking you to do:
1) Write two letters to lawmakers using the talking points provided in the links below
a. One requesting that funding for the Illinois Arts Council be restored to $23.2 million as proposed by the General Assembly on August 10, 2007
Click Here: http://capwiz.com/artsusa/il/issues/alert/?alertid=10235401&type=ML&show_alert=1
b. The other urging lawmakers to restore funding to the Arts and Foreign Language grant program through the Illinois State Board of Education. Click Here: http://capwiz.com/artsusa/il/issues/alert/?alertid=10235931&type=ML&show_alert=1
2) Make two phone calls to the numbers listed below expressing your concern with the proposed budget cuts to the arts and urging that funding be fully restored for the Illinois Arts Council and the Illinois State Board of Education’s Arts and Foreign Language grant program.
a) Ginger Ostro
Budget Director for Governors Office of Management and Budget
b) Governor Rod Blagojevich
312-814-2121 (Chicago) OR 217-558-0880 (Springfield)
While the road ahead is rocky, together we can restore full funding for the arts in Illinois! Should you have any questions or concerns please contact me at 312-855-3105 ext 14 or email joy@artsalliance.org
Ra Joy
Executive Director
Illinois Arts Alliance

Sunday, August 26, 2007

THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW by Robert Hughes--a book review

Connections are often a key to the enjoyment of the stories of other's lives and I discovered a fair number of them while reading Robert Hughes' fascinatiing memoir titled Things I Didn't Know. First off Hughes and I share the same birth year--1938, That means our historical memories contain some common guideposts in spite of his youth in Australia and mine in the United States. We share early childhood consciousness of World War II, and being just a bit too young for Korea. We both were married with children before View Nam heated up. We both have lived in and loved London, have had a life threatening medical problem, and spent a career in the arts--though his has clearly and deservedly been far more distinguished.

Aside from our experiential similarities, I also admit to a long time admiration of his work. When I directed Timberlake Wertenbaker's magnificent play Our Country's Good, Hughes' The Fatal Shore was my research bible for the understanding of Australian history and character. A few years later, when teaching a course on the history and development of the arts in America, I used his American Visions for several class assignments. I must also admit to having The Culture of Complaint on my bookshelf and to reading his art columns in TIME regularly over the years.

Early on in the book, Hughes cemented my endearment by revealing that Ken Tynan was one of the critics he admired and wanted to be like. Ooops! another connection of his life to mine. Ken Tynan was a kind of hero to me too. In my judgement Tynan has written the best body of theatrical criticism in English since Bernard Shaw and I tried to make that point in my doctoral dissertation. Like Tynan Hughes felt that you need not be a talented artist to critique the arts, but you do have to have had made some attempts to practice the art you intend to comment on if only to learn how . . . "difficult certain effects that one sees in the work of real masters can be to achieve. It demonstrates that nothing, not even facility itself, is easy. Without knowing about such matters, one cannot write usefully about art."

As a somewhat crusty old curmudgeon myself, I also admire Hughes' unabashed cultural snobbery. He rues the damage done to artifacts and locales by what he calls the "toxic combination" of "mass tourism, local greed, and grossly insensitive restoration" that has literally "ruined the ruins" and turned whole sections of Europe into Disneyfied parodys of themselves. London's Bankside today, with its wine bars and museums of torture nestled up alongside the re-constructed Globe, would seem to be a perfect example of what he was talking about.

A full chapter is devoted to the great flood of the Arno in Florence in 1966. He was able to convince the BBC to send him to cover the story and his descriptions of the destruction and damage to so many classical masterpieces is compelling. The experience of seeing those treasures destroyed and hearing some so called new wave artists claim that their loss was no tragedy at all actually soured Hughes on the "potency of the avant garde." He remains convinced today that although some new works of art may have value, that the majority of so called "cutting edge" or "radical" works have little or no value. Newness is not a value in and of itself. Correlating with that is his pessimisstic view of modern media and journalism. The internet, the networks, and the fourth estate, he claims, have chosen to dumb themselves down to the level of "mushy celebrity-obsessed blithering" and "cretinous impressionism."

All in all Hughes' autobiography makes a lively read. It is acerbic, entertaining, and thought provoking.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wind but no floods in Monmouth

It was a Thusday filled with storms, lighting, and thunder. Monmouth and environs took a hit from powerful straight line winds that may have gone as high as eighty miles per hour. Power was out for most of the city. Ours returned around two AM Friday, but others were not so fortunate. We had several huge limbs crash down on our driveway plus lots of other branches all over the yard. Our backs are sore from pulling and bending for most of the day on Friday. Kirkwood, a neighboring town, had damage to over 200 homes and a lot of the bumper corn crop between here and Roseville has taken an awful beating.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dress Codes for Students and Faculty Make the News

JK Wilson comments about interesting new scholarly requirements at Illinois State University. You can read about the new dress codes at the site below and also see some of Wilson's comments.

Today's InsideHigherEd.com has an article about dress codes for business students (and faculty) at my institution, Illinois State University.

My blog entries about the dress code are at:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Advocating for Theatre Arts via Illinois Theatre Association

Anyone who looks at this blog occasionally might be forgiven if they think that all we do is travel and promote things at the Buchanan Center for the Arts and the Warren County Public Library. But my career was in the theatre and my heart still lingers there even though it is more difficult to keep up professionally when the financial support that one used to enjoy while teaching is no longer there.

A lot of my theatre energy is now directed toward serving as Director of Advocacy for the Illinois Theatre Association, where one of my duties is to write a monthly column for their newsletter. The August article is reproduced below.

"Having just returned from the 2007 Convention of ATHE (Association of Theatre in Higher Education) in New Orleans, where I gave a short paper on my Advocacy Involvement with the Illinois Theatre Association, I thought this might be the time to mention that advocacy materials are available on the ATHE website. http://www.athe.org/ You will find the Advocacy section under Resources. One site in their info bank that I mentioned a few months ago is still first rate. Take a look at
the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge. http://www.artsedge.kennedy-center.org/

A part of advocacy is pursuing rights for the members of our profession and you might find the following ATHE position paper on “Partner Benefits” interesting and helpful (even though it is aimed primarily at college teachers). http://www.athe.org/files/pdf/PartnerBenefitsPositionPaper.pdf

Now here’s a little gold mine. All in one place the Arts Education Policies of all the states in the union. Check out Illinois and a few others. Read, and then perhaps weep. http://www.aep-arts.org/database/results2.htm?select_state_id=11

The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) has an arts education advocacy DVD, called Visions of the Future: Education in the Art, which offers reflections on the past and perspectives on the future of arts education from key leaders of education, arts and philanthropic organizations. As a bonus the DVD includes The Arts and Children: A Success Story, an advocacy video produced by AEP in 1996 featuring Meryl Streep. Check it out at http://www.aep-arts.org/publications/info.htm?publication_id=23

The final part of Advocacy this month is to remind you that renewing your membership in ITA (Ilinois Theatre Association) and committing to attend the convention in September is the sort of ‘put your money where your mouth is' proof that you do want to have a stake in influencing theatre arts policy in Illinois and in the country. All arts activities need your support!" If you want more information on the Illinois Theatre Association click on its web site at the left in this blog.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mississippi River Journey--Part 9 New Orleans Potpourri

You get stacked four high in the cemetery while waiting for a spot in a large mausoleum.

The famous Royal Street corn stalk fence makes you think of Iowa and Grant Wood

Don't even think of trying to shinny up one of the balcony supports unless you have iron shorts on.

What's New Orleans without a pile of beignets and cafe au lait on a Sunday morning at the Cafe du Monde?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mississippi River Journey--Part 8 New Orleans Architecture

One of the most enchanting things to do when in New Orleans is to take a simple walk through the French Quarter. The people watching is superb, the eateries are as ubiquitous as pubs in London, and the architecture is studded with frosting like traceries of wrought iron and garden baskets. No need to comment. Just take a peek.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Mississippi River Journey part 7--Finally New Orleans

We finally reached the outpouring bottom of the Father of Waters. New Orleans, even in its still tentative state, is still a treat to the eye and the stomach. It would be easy to dwell on what is still to be re-built and very easy to rail at the usual bogeymen who can be made to seem responsible for all that happened and all that has not happened. Suffice it to say that the road back is a long one and it continues to be filled with potholes. Where re-surfacing has been completed, the city is is definitely coming back. From the vantage point of a pricey downtown tourist hotel, just a stone's throw from Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, you could easily be fooled into believing that Katrina had never happened. But it did and a few blocks any direction beyond the downtown enclave, will soon reveal the signs of sadness.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Time Out for an OFTA program on Jewelry Making

Last Wednesday's OFTA (Old Friends Talk Arts) program at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth, IL featured hand blown glass jewelry creator Wendy Allaman. A crowd of almost forty listened intently to the story of how Allaman got started making glass artifacts and about how the making of art melded with her own religious faith. They leaned in even more intently when she touched a match to her torch and began to create some lovely beads from simple rods of colored glass right before our eyes.

Allaman has a studio in a picture perfect little log cabin on a country road just outside of Monmouth and a visit there will get you a nice country drive as well as delightful displays of miniature blown glass vessels, ornaments, lampwork beads, and a large variety of handmade blown glass earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. She will also take orders for custom pieces for weddings and other special occasions.

Her shop and studio will be open from 9-4 on September 29th for the Henderson County Heritage Trail. You may also call 309-627-2057 to make an appointment for a visit.

OFTA (Old Friends Talk Arts) meets the second Wednesday of each month at 10:00 AM in the main gallery of the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth. Admission is free and refreshments are available. Programs vary and cover all of the visual and performing arts. OFTA is supported by a grant from the Buchanan Center and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mississippi River Journey Part 6--Monmouth to Monmouth in Natchez

Welcome to the Monmouth Plantation y'all!

Strange as it was that Vicksburg was located in Warren County, it was even stranger to see a sign advertising the Monmouth Plantation in Natchez, MS. So being a long time resident of Monmouth in Warren County in Illinois, we could not ignore the temptation to see what a Monmouth Plantation might be like in Mississippi.

It turns out that the original builder of the house did come from Monmouth County in New Jersey--the same area that the original settlers of our town came from. After that there would appear to be no similarity. The Monmouth Plantation is now a pricey bed and breakfast surrounded by lush green grounds and gardens that would make Capability Brown drool. A gracious Southern lady gave us our tour of the house and then set us loose to stroll the grounds unhampered for as long as we desired.

Someday it might be fun to return and stay for a night. Perhaps if we start saving now we could afford it sometime next year.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mississippi River Journey Part 5--Natchez Riverfront

Not too far down the Trace from Vicksburg is Natchez. The downtown and river front seems more spruced up and the building projects seem pretty upscale. It was hot and humid, but we had a lovely walk along the bluffside park and the downtown streets.

Mississippi River Journey Part 4--McRaven House in Vicksburg

The entrance hall today

The stairway rises in a masterful curve.

A Victorian bathtub in the bedroom

The oldest part of the house

Handpainted stencils decorate the dining room

McRaven House is interesting because the oldest section dates back to 1797. It was subsequently added to in 1836 and again in 1849. It was a fashionable home by the time of the Civil War. You can even see areas where cannon damage was patched up.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mississippi River Journey Part 3--More Vicksburg U.S.S. Cairo

One of the stops on the Vicksburg National Military Park Battlefield tour deserves a special mention. The U.S.S. Cairo was an ironclad Union gunboat that was sunk by a Confederate underwater mine in 1862. Its location in the Mississippi's mud was slowly forgotten until a National Park Service Historian re-discovered its resting place in 1956. Raised in 1964 and ultimately restored and put on display next to a fine museum containing hundreds of excavated artifacts, the ship is now a fascinating naval and military history schoolroom. You won't want to miss it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mississippi River Journey Part 2-- Vicksburg

A long cruise of some five hundred miles from Collinsville, IL takes you into Vicksburg, MS where a friendly Country Kitchen will serve you down-home biscuits with your meatloaf and mash. Get the spiced apples for one of your sides and you have a nice dessert.

Bright and early we were at the Mational Military Park for a driving tour of one of the most awesome of Civil War battle sites. You stick a tape or CD in you car player and get a personalized tour that stops and starts on your command. The information is so impossibly bloody that you find it hard to place the events within the quiet green meadows and woodlands that stretch out before you.

Time to raise the flag.

Monument to black participants in the battle

Detail from the Ohio monument

The Illinois Memorial is truly moving.

Each place various state regiments encamped there is a monument. Here is the one from Illinois. We had no idea how many Illinois sons participated in the Vicksburg campaign. The upriver states had strong reasons for keeping the waterway open to Union commercial and war traffic.