Shirley Madigan, Illinois Arts Council Agency (IACA) chairman and spokesperson, recently informed IACA grantees and applicants that fiscal year 2015 funding decisions for current, pending and future applicants is suspended. But why?
Madigan’s concise letter describes “circumstances beyond our control” and expresses “regret [for] any hardships that are caused.” This news follows Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s February 18 release of his proposed budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Given Illinois’ state-level financial struggles, part of his proposed budget includes $6.7 billion in cuts; IACA itself has a recommended budget reduction of 18.2 percent for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget reduction as the cause of IACA’s funding suspension decision is speculative. IACA informed Newcity that Madigan was unable to provide a response at the time of publication.
Despite the reason, IACA provides tremendous value to artists. IACA supports Illinois’ arts, advances art education and fosters creativity and working artists. It offers more than a dozen grant options; IACA’s artist fellowship program is one example. In 2014, it recognized eighteen artists with $15,000 awards from various categories. The benefits of this award are many, as the artists interviewed through email convey.
“Every artist needs money and time,” according to Harold Mendez, a 2014 fellowship recipient. “It is great that there is an institution like IACA that takes notice of artists with a committed practice.” Dianna Frid, another fellowship recipient, says her IACA grant has provided “experiences, insights and new knowledge that will not only be folded into works of art, but will also be integrated as teaching tools.” Furthermore, Paola Cabal, also a fellowship recipient, explained this award will allow her to focus on an upcoming exhibition without taking on extra work this summer. That said, what does this suspension decision mean for the culture of Chicago?
Daniel Eisenberg, a media arts fellowship recipient, looks at this decision through an economic lens. “As a world-class city, we can’t afford not to support culture and the arts. It makes our city a less attractive destination for businesses, conventions and tourist dollars.” Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, an artist who has had multiple opportunities with IACA, also worries about this decision, since “creatives make up the life blood of Chicago and are drivers of innovation and culture.”
The future of IACA’s financial support remains to be seen. What is certain is IACA’s unequivocal impact on the arts. As Hulsebos-Spofford aptly stated, “Without [IACA’s] support I wouldn’t be where I am today and my work would be very different.” (Amy Haddad)