On a Mission for Money

At press time there were still seats open on the Illinois Arts Alliance bus bound from Chicago to Springfield on Thursday, April 22. It’s not exactly a mass march, but IAA executive director Alene Valkanas says she’s hoping to gather 150 to 200 supporters in the state capital for Arts Advocacy Day, including at least one from each of Illinois’ 59 senate districts. The subject of their attention: Governor Blagojevich’s proposed $18.5 million for the Illinois Arts Council in his state budget for next year. That’s a cut of more than $100,000 from this year, but hardly shocking, considering the state’s projected $1.7 billion deficit for 2005. Still, IAA’s negotiating stance calls for raising its allocation by $7 million. After covering administrative costs of about $1.5 million, that would bring available funds for grants to arts organizations to $24 million, or about $2 for every state resident. Remember, Valkanas says, the Arts Council budget includes a mandatory $5 million for public broadcasting and $1 million for the Illinois Humanities Council; last year that left just $11 million to divvy up among all the state’s other arts organizations. IAA’s rationale will again be based largely on the economic impact study it released last year. Employing magic multipliers (like steroids for numbers), the study argued that nonprofit arts in Illinois are an “economic dynamo” that generated $2 billion in spending in 2002. Valkanas says Illinois ranks 18th among states in per capita arts funding.

IAA’s efforts this year are getting a boost from a print ad created pro bono by local firm Hadrian’s Wall, with design by Wyville USA. The ad, headed “It’s Your Turn to Perform,” urges readers to lobby state legislators and is aimed at a group Valkanas says the alliance has always wanted to mobilize: arts patrons. Organizations like the League of Chicago Theatres have been picking it up without cost from the IAA Web site and running it in their publications. “We know for sure we’ve [placed] 600,000,” Valkanas says. IAA’s also getting new muscle from its electronic advocacy program. Two months ago, for a $2,250 annual fee, it tapped into an interactive database run by a D.C. company, Capitol Advantage. The program allows anyone who signs on to access information about pending state or national arts legislation and–most important–to whip out personalized form letters demanding that legislators take action. Valkanas says in the two months they’ve had it the governor has been sent 600 of these missives. The state legislature will vote on the budget next month.

The IAA bus leaves at 8 AM April 22 from 200 N. Michigan and returns around 8 PM. Events in Springfield include live performances, two half-hour advocacy training sessions, a briefing with Illinois Arts Council officials, and meetings with legislators. Cost is $40; $8 for an optional box lunch.


Now that we’re nose-to-nose with a thousand bus shelter billboards and their gargantuan bacon burgers, watch out for the next invasion of our turf: onboard video. It’ll be just like watching an in-flight movie–only without the headsets and without the movie. The sound track will be unavoidable, and if things go as planned, much of the programming will be commercials. A self-described leader in captive advertising, Florida-based Transit Television Network has already contracted to put monitors on all the buses in the suburban Pace system: by the end of this year, 389 of them will be outfitted with two or three screens each, with the rest of the fleet soon to follow. Pace signed a contract that guarantees it $500,000 over five years, more if ad sales thrive. The CTA says it’s working on a bid proposal “to assess the video market.”


It’s dueling divas this Sunday afternoon: Renee Fleming is performing at Symphony Center and Denyce Graves at Dominican University. Dominican officials aren’t saying what they’re paying Graves for the 24th annual trustee benefit performance, but their River Forest auditorium has only 1,182 seats. About half of those will go for $30 to $40; university spokesperson Jessica Mackinnon says the others will be sold as premium show and dinner tickets for $325 each. An auction, raffle, and program ads are expected to bring in another $100,000 or so. And besides all that, Mackinnon says, supporters who can’t make it often send donations. Last year’s benefit netted $200,000 for scholarships….When Next Theatre announced its lead role in a collaborative audience development program underwritten with a $40,000 grant from Boeing Company last year, it said the program would take off in the fall of 2003. Artistic director Jason Loewith now says representatives from north suburban theater companies have been meeting every couple of weeks, but that the launch has been rescheduled for fall 2004 and their lips are zipped till then. The program, which includes Apple Tree, Northlight, Piven, and Writers’ Theatre along with Next, is likely to involve a North Shore theater group logo, a Web site, combined mailings, and audience-sharing experiments like reciprocal discounts or a sampler season with a ticket from each company….Lyric Opera says that, what with the Ring cycle and all, it’ll be too busy during its upcoming 50th anniversary season to offer its annual free concert of opera stars in Grant Park, though more than 20,000 people have attended the performances each year since they began four years ago. Don’t expect to hear Lyric performances on the radio either: at this point there are no plans to reinstate the opening night broadcasts dropped two years ago.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrea Beno.