Two Bloomington arts programs are among the dozens statewide which are hoping to cash in on a one-time windfall of state funding.
The state's new capital plan includes $50 million for arts-related facility and infrastructure projects.
Doug Johnson, executive director of the McLean County Arts Center, was part of a statewide lobbying effort with the Arts Alliance Illinois that urged freshman Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state legislature to boost funding for a sector of the economy that the group claims has been sorely overlooked in recent years.
Johnson quoted a study he did for the alliance which showed 18 percent of arts nonprofit groups collapsed during the state budget stalemates of recent years.
“To have this infusion to help us revitalize those existing arts organizations can make a tremendous difference for the cultural life for our entire state,” he said.
Johnson would like to see some of that money flow to Bloomington, in particular for the arts center he's been running for 18 years. Parts of its building dates back more than a century. He said the former church portion of the building needs tuckpointing, the parking lots need redone and the sidewalks outside need curbs.
Then, there's the nearby Creativity Center. The Friends of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts has been fundraising for that project.
“That was the whole impetus for participation,” he said. “Not only were we able to represent downstate when we met with leaders at the state capitol, but we have a vested interest in improving the cultural life of our community and these dollars will allow us to do that.”
Johnson said these arts programs are true economic drivers, that can demonstrate the dollars they bring to their communities and they bring the workforce that communities want.
“It’s not an elitist enterprise," he said. "Ultimately the types of community development and economic support and development of a creative workplace, those things make a difference for all of us.”
Johnson said the $50 million funding boost is close to four times what the state has been giving arts programs in recent years. He said the alliance asked for $100 million.
It’s a part of the state’s $450 billion capital plan to address infrastructure needs throughout the state. Lawmakers approved doubling the state’s gas tax to 38 cents, increasing vehicle registration fees and the tobacco tax to pay for it.
The Illinois Arts Council will determine how the funds will be distributed.
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