DeKalb groups receive art grants

By Richard Snowden

Each year, the Illinois Arts Council disburses grants provided by the state’s General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For some DeKalb-area arts organizations, the grants are a vital element of their funding.

“We apply every year for grants with the Illinois Arts Council,” said Frank Bazeli, president of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra board of directors. “They’re one of our main sources of funding and we greatly appreciate their helping us fund the orchestra.”

The Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra received $3,980 in grant money this year, which Bazeli said will be spent on a variety of activities related to the orchestra.

“The money goes for advertising, general operating expenses and that kind of thing,” Bazeli said. “We also spend part of our grant money on compensating our musicians who attend NIU. They’re an important part of our orchestra.”

According to the IAC, which was founded in 1965, the grants are available to any Illinois non-profit organization that provides arts programming of high artistic merit, ranging from ethnic and folk arts to arts-in-education initiatives.

The grants constitute the IAC’s largest annual expenditure.

For 2005, the total outlay is $8.9 million, which has been distributed to a broad range of different organizations throughout the state.

“We supply [funding for] a wide variety of different arts disciplines in a variety of different settings – schools, libraries, park districts – all kinds of different arts organizations,” said Ann Ridge, director of marketing and public relations for the IAC.

Ridge said the various grant programs each have their own application deadlines and some have open deadlines. Each year, organizations must apply for grant funding and the applications are evaluated by a panel at the IAC.

Christopher Porterfield, president of the Stage Coach Players, a local theater group located at 1516 Barber Greene Road, said some IAC grants require organizations that receive funding to provide an accounting of expenditures.

“Some grants have a stipulation that they have to go toward specific expenditures,” said Porterfield, whose group received $4,380 from the IAC this year. “We have to write a report later explaining how the money was spent.”

Porterfield said the Stage Coach Players apply their grant funding to a host of different expenses, some of which involve particular projects.

“Some of our grant money is used for specific projects, such as publicity, advertising, capital improvements or community outreach,” Porterfield said.

NIU received $16,840 in grant money from the IAC this year, which will be used to help fund its art museum exhibit-season project.

Jo Burke, assistant director of the NIU Art Museum, said the grant funds also will be used for several other expenses related to the museum.

“The money will also go toward operating expenses, publicity, catalogs, honorariums for the artists,” Burke said. “We apply for grants every year and we’ve done consistently well with that. Out of the past 10 years, there was maybe one year where we didn’t get anything.”

Other area organizations that received IAC grant funding this year include Northern Public Radio, Northern Illinois Children’s Chorus, the Sandwich Association to Restore City Hall, Art Attack School of Art and the Indian Valley Theatre.