Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1992 - The Community Cultural Plan

In 1992, the Decatur Area Arts Council led the community through a cultural planning process spearheaded by Joan (Rolf) Avis, along with Chuck Archer and Wesley Tower.

The Arts Council received a grant to hire professional consultants and, after raising the necessary matching funds, hired the Wolf Organization of Cambridge, Mass., beginning their work in early 1992.

The Wolf Organization, working hand in hand with Arts Council staff and the 19 member steering committee, conducted a number of individual and group interviews, reviewed resource materials, and compiled a community needs assessment, including:

  • How to increase outreach
  • Facilities report
  • The needs of different arts organizations
  • Current and needed arts education
  • Possible Arts Council changes, capabilities or responsibilities
  • Cultural diversity
  • Financial resources

The inclusive nature of the planning process involved people from many different organizations and cultural backgrounds invited to a series of public hearings. The final report was presented in October 1992. Most priority items revolved around the Arts Council making a commitment to become a facilitator and catalyst for the arts in Decatur.

Task forces were formed to analyze and implement the recommendations of the consultants, which included:

  • Move Arts Council offices to downtown Decatur
  • Establish a local arts network with workshops for local arts organizations
  • Improve the coordination and dissemination of information about the arts in Decatur
  • Establish a resource task force to research a united arts fund approach
  • Work with the City to develop a Public Arts Commission
  • Establish a permanent arts education planning group
  • Work with the Heritage Network to identify their role in the cultural plan

A Cultural Planning Group was put into place to oversee the task force work and to validate their final recommendations.  In Spring 1993, the Decatur Area Arts Council board accept the recommendations of the Cultural Planning Group's Action Plan for Year One and gave the Arts Council staff and the Long Range Planning Committee authority to move forward with these recommendations.

The top priority of the Community Cultural Plan, establishing a downtown location for the Arts Council, became a reality in 2004 with the purchase and renovation of the Madden Arts Center at 125 N. Water St..

Community Cultural Plan Steering Committee members included:

  • Joan (Rolf) Avis, Chair, DAAC
  • Louise Kidd and Susan Smith, DAAC staff
  • Chuck Archer, DAAC and IAC representative
  • Glenda Brown, Downtown Senior Center
  • Ken Crossley, DAAC and Kirkland Fine Arts Center
  • Sherry Gates, Gallery 510 and visual artist
  • Andy Green, Civic Center
  • Debra Harris, WAND and performing artist
  • Angela Hughes, City of Decatur
  • Joyce Matteson, Barn Colony Artists
  • Sue Powell, Decatur Recreation Department and artist
  • Molly Shade, Theatre 7, Lincoln Theatre Restoration Group, and performing artist
  • Nancy Shoop, DAAC and visual artist
  • Norman Stewart, DAAC
  • Mary Talbott, Macon County Historical Society
  • Wesley Tower, Millikin University and Symphony Orchestra
  • Carol Trolia, Symphony Orchestra Guild
  • Don Wachter, Decatur Public Schools
  • Jon Weidlich, Richland Community College
  • Denene Wilmeth, Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Monday, February 26, 2018

Decatur’s Juried Fine Arts Fair (Arts in Central Park)


In 1962, The Barn Colony created and produced the first juried art show in downtown Decatur. Held the third weekend in September, it was called the Downtown Art Fair. 

'Juried’ means artists must submit slides or photographs of their work which are reviewed by a jury (a knowledgeable committee) and accepts artists into the show based on technical skill, creativity, the medium, and/or other requirements.

(Barn Colony)  In 1939 local artists formed a group for the purpose of shared learning as well as providing arts education to the community. This group met on the ground floor of the barn/carriage house at the James Millikin home, 125 North Pine Street. The group adopted the name "Barn Colony" and met regularly in the barn for the next 30 years.

In 1969, the Barn Colony Artists invited the newly-established (1968) Decatur Area Arts Council to be a partner in producing the art fair.

In 1983, the Downtown Decatur Council took over the planning and producing of the Downtown Art Fair and continued with the third weekend in September.  There was no jurying and an average of 100 artists showed their work for sale in Central Park and on the streets of downtown Decatur. 

Wanting a higher quality show, Barn Colony and the Decatur Area Arts Council got together and decided to start a separate juried fine arts fair on the grounds of the Millikin Homestead.  To avoid interfering with the Downtown Decatur Council’s art fair, it would be held in the spring. 

In 1991, Art on Main became the new spring juried fine art fair on the grounds of the Millikin Homestead which was created and produced by the Decatur Area Arts Council and Barn Colony.  In 1992, the Barn Colony decided not to continue and Gallery 510 Arts Guild stepped up to partner with DAAC.   Art on Main was held from 1991-1994.

Gallery 510 Arts Guild, Ltd., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was established in May 1991 by a group of artists from Central Illinois. This professional art guild was established to “nourish an interest in the visual fine arts as a public service, to act as a progressive source of cultural and educational enrichment and to serve as a venue for professional and emerging artists.”

Nova Framing is also located at 160 East Main Street and is wholly owned by the non-profit, Gallery 510 Arts Guild, Ltd.  Profits from Nova Framing are used by Gallery 510 for visual arts programming and support.

With changes in personnel and the desire for a strong “arts” fair, Downtown Decatur Council, Decatur Area Arts Council and Gallery 510 negotiated to hold one juried fine arts fair in Central Park on the third weekend in September.  In 1995 Arts in Central Park was born.
Although the event was and is primarily a visual art fair, it was decided to use the word “arts” in the name instead of “art” with the goal to present other art forms during the weekend. 

When the Downtown Decatur Council was dissolved in 2010, Arts in Central Park became a collaboration of the Decatur Area Arts Council and Gallery 510.  That relationship continues today.

Minor changes have occurred with Arts in Central Park since 1995 but the basic premise has not changed and is still going strong today.  We feel proud of the collaboration that has occurred with the different organizations over the years and honored to present to the community a quality fine arts fair.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Growth of the P.A.S.S. Program

Arts education has always been the cornerstone of the Arts Council’s mission. 


In 1970, a series of Youth Concerts for elementary school students was scheduled through a partnership with Millikin University and newly-constructed Kirkland Fine Arts Center,
  • October 29, 1970 - Millikin Jazz Lab Band
  • November 19, 1970 - Millikin Civic Orchestra
  • February 11, 1971 - Millikin Choir
  • March 5, 1971 - Millikin Wind Ensemble
The cost was 35 cents per student, a portion of which covered the cost of transportation.  The first performance on October 29 filled the hall with 1,850 children.

Under the leadership of DAAC board president Louise Fathauer, the Youth Concert Program began expanding into drama, mime, dance, folk music and opera, the name was officially changed in 1975 to the Performing Arts Series for Students (P.A.S.S.).

Through the ongoing partnership with Kirkland Fine Arts Center and the Symphony Guild of Decatur, this program continues today and, over the years, has served an estimated half a million area school children.

This terrific program is designed to open doors to learning for children through the performing arts.  Each year, six to seven high-quality shows are chosen with young students (Pre-K to 6th grade) in mind.  Area teachers and home school groups can reserve seats for the shows that best suit the needs of their class.

Today the cost is only $5.00 per student. DAAC also send a study guide for each performance to teachers a few weeks prior to the event to inspire thought and discussion before and after the show.

A big part of what makes P.A.S.S. so special is that it provides an opportunity that many of the students may seldom get...
  • the chance to see an entertaining and educational show
  • provided by professional performing artists
  • in a world-class facility
  • on a university campus.