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.

Paul Taylor Dance Company Residency

Inspired by the enthusiastic response to the Paul Taylor Dance Company the previous year, the first major project sponsored by the newly-established Decatur Area Arts Council’s was to bring them to Decatur for a week-long residency in October 1968.

Half the $8,000 fee for the appearances was paid by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, with DAAC responsible for the other half. With only the hope of anticipated ticket sales revenue to cover its share of the cost, the DAAC committed to the project.

The dance company, including Paul Taylor himself, presented performances, lectures, and demonstrations to students, a master class, and two sold-out public performances in the Eisenhower High School Auditorium.

The project was a huge success!

Related notes:
  • Several members of Theatre 7, Decatur's Community Theatre, provided staging and lighting assistance to the company.
  • Dancemaker Paul Taylor, one of the seminal artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries, continues to shape the homegrown American art of modern dance that he has helped define since he became a professional dancer and pioneering choreographer in 1954.
  • Comments from young students included…
    … that any of the dancers would be good at any sport because of the fine physical shape they are in.
    …that Paul Taylor himself seemed like a football player type.

The Beginning of the Decatur Area Arts Council

In 1967, Margaret Fassnacht, director of music education for Decatur Schools, encouraged Howard Brown. county superintendent of schools, to invite the nationally-acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company to Decatur as part of the October Macon County Teachers’ Institute.  Held at Johns Hill Junior High School, it was the first time the Paul Taylor Dance Company had ever given lecture-demonstrations.

Margaret Fassnacht remembered, “During intermission, I turned around to a group of coaches seated behind me. I asked them: What do you think? They made me so happy. They said it was one of the most interesting sessions they had attended.”

Howard Brown cited this event as the inspiration for the creation of the Decatur Area Arts Council.

Margaret was also serving as a member of the Illinois Arts Council in 1967 (established as a full-fledged agency in 1965) when she and other local artists, teachers, and Millikin University staff began to rally community arts leaders around the idea of forming an arts council in Decatur.

Margaret Fassnacht later reflected, “The arts council movement was under way, sooner or later it would have arrived in Decatur. The seed had to be planted. I was fortunate to be the one.”

The founding Board of Directors of the Decatur Area Arts Council first met in the law office of Emanual Rosenberg on Monday, April 8, 1968.

The original Board consisted of:

  • Howard Brown (First President)
  • Dionne Carlson
  • Louise Fathauer
  • Elinor Gage
  • Orville Graham
  • Edward Lindsay
  • Emanual Rosenberg
  • Ann Seidman
  • Frances Wilson
  • Margaret Fassnacht (ex-officio)
  • Later added: Marvin Klaven and Ronald Gregory 

At a DAAC meeting Howard Brown declared, “this organization belongs to you and the people of this community.”

Click HERE for a complete list of those who have served on the DAAC Board of Directors.