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Arts Update Newsletter


Thank you for your continued support of the Rockford Area Arts Council.  Through your support we were able to reach and enhance the lives of thousands throughout our four-county region.

Here are a few 2016 highlights.....


We awarded eighteen Community Arts Grants to artists and arts organizations for projects and events Beth Howard from Rockford Coronado Concert Association said, "The generous grant provided by RAAC...allows us to continue to provide the highest world-class artistic quality performance experience for our 4th Grade audience members.  In its fourteenth year, this project has impacted over 20,000 students thanks to ongoing support from important arts funders as the Rockford Arts Arts Council."

RAAC coordinated the Regional Poetry Out Loud competition and sent two students to the State competition.  Demetrius Markam and Ana Plankenhorn recited the poems with confidence and remarkable poise.


For the celebration of Arts in Education Month in March, we received a mayoral proclamation, student artwork was exhibited at City Hall, and the Lincoln School band marched into the City Council chambers and played the Star Spangled Banner.  Over one hundred artists marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  It was a beautiful, moving site.

In June, ArtsPlace, an arts apprenticeship program populated by Rockford's youthful artists aged 13-18 began its 22nd year.  Their shows, films, and art exhibits drew praise from friends, parents, and arts-supporters.  ArtsPlace is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the City of Rockford, Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, Rockford Park District, and District #205.

While other kids were playing Pokemon Go and gluing themselves to their phones, our young artists at RAAC Arts Camp were singing, drawing, filmmaking, acting, dancing, writing, and building skills that will help them succeed for the rest of their lives.  RAAC Arts Camp was funded through a grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and long-time devoted arts and education advocate Dr. JoAnn Shaheen.

The Jefferson Street Mural created by ArtsPlace apprentices was dedicated on the first "8-1-5 Rockford Day".  The mural was sponsored by the Rockford Area Realtors Young Professional Network, Restoleum, Sherwin Williams, and the City of Rockford.

In August we said good-bye to our Executive Director, Anne O'Keefe, wishing her well on her new position as Development Director at the Rockford Public Library.

Sharon Nesbit-Davis, who has been with RAAC for over twenty years, was appointed Interim Executive Director.  The RAAC staff and board are in the process of assessing and evaluating our current operations, affirming priorities, and identifying strategies to advance our mission of the arts for everyone.  This fall we welcomed new RAAC board members Caitlyn Baylor, Emily Klonicki, Constance Kuntz, and Jordan McDonald.

The Council Choraleers, an all-city children's choir directed by Dorothy Paige-Turner, were nominated and received recognition at the first Peace Youth Awards presented by the Rockford Peace Coalition.

In October, we held Fall ArtScene.  For the first time in many years, the Arts Council office participated in ArtScene with an exhibit of the work of Maya Simmons and 2016 ArtsPlace Apprentices.


On Halloween, we introduced The Shumway, Rockford's tiniest performance space to the city and in November, we began working with the city to paint the walls, add new flooring, and re-design our office.  Our historic building is not just our office headquarters, but is also home of The Shumway Art Gallery and Performance Space.

In 2017 the Rockford Area Arts Council celebrates its 30th Anniversary.  RAAC has earned a respected position in our community largely due to the mission, support, promote, and develop the arts for everyone.  That mission informs everything we do.  We believe in the power of the arts to positively impact individuals, families, neighborhoods, and the community.  We are eye-witnesses to it.  Our resolution for the New Year is to make that more visible to everyone.

So let us take this moment to say thank you.  Thank you for sharing your love of the arts with us and each other.

Thank you for believing in us.

RAAC Staff

Sharon Nesbit-Davis, Interim Executive Director
Ann-Margret Naber, Administrative Assistant
Trisha Blassage, Business Manager