Illinois Art Station is on the move and making plans for an expanded future in Bloomington-Normal.
Established two years ago and initially associated with Illinois State University, Illinois Art Station (IAS) provides hands-on experiences in the visual arts for young people in the community. The organization has now struck out on its own to forge a new path in the Twin Cities.
Laura Jaster, the new executive director of IAS, said the now-public, non-profit will keep some ties to the university as it explores new options within the community by helping kids learn and grow through experiencing art.
“Art helps them to use their voice through a creative outlet," she said. "We really hope that we can reach all children in our community. But we have a special focus on reaching children who would otherwise not have these experiences. So, we try to work with underserved populations.”
Jaster acknowledged the Art Station was fortunate to have been partnered with ISU when IAS was founded.
“We will continue to partner with Illinois State University. Even now we have graduate assistants who come from ISU, and I think we will continue to have very positive relationships with ISU,” she said.
“We have established ourselves as a public, non-profit independent institution. In a lot of ways, that allows us to be more flexible and responsive to the community. I think it also allows us to become the community’s Illinois Art Station. They get to have ownership in the sense that there’s a lot more that we can respond to. It’s really exciting for us.”
IAS is looking at Vernon Avenue, near Constitution Trail, as the likely location to house its new permanent facility.
“It will be so wonderful to be able to invite people to us and to really create a home,” said Jaster, a recent appointee to the post of executive director.
“We have done a lot of really great work, but we can go beyond that, as well. We could reach a lot more people in our community. I would love for Illinois Art Station to be something that is a ready thought for community groups, teachers and families as a place where they can come to have these creative experiences, and all of those positive outcomes that come from having those experiences.”
Having a location close to Constitution Trail has the potential to bring new people to IAS, added Jaster.
“This location provides a lot of opportunities for us to have connections with people who are walking along the trail and be able to see us as they come down that pathway and hopefully be intrigued by what they’re seeing and want to step on to our grounds and come into our space.”
“We’re also very close to Uptown. It’s easy walking distance for many people, So, hopefully, that will encourage people who are spending time in Uptown Normal to take a little bit of a walk in our direction.”
Recently, IAS was involved in two high-profile mural projects: Washington Street at Constitution Trail and on Market Street in Bloomington. More projects of that sort could well be in the future for Illinois Art Station, said Jaster.
“These mural projects were such a wonderful moment for IAS, but also for the youth of our community. I think they do a great job of telling our story–both Illinois Art Station and the community. I know that the youth who participated have really meaningful experiences.”
“The wonderful things about these public art projects is the longevity of that," she said. "When people drive or walk past the mural, they get to participate in that in some way. And that’s going to continue long after the project is completed.
“I do hope that we continue to have these really beautiful, colorful, larger-scale public art moments that IAS is spearheading.”
Although IAS is currently closed due to the pandemic, Jaster anticipates having virtual programming ready for the fall, and is in the process of seeking approval from the Town of Normal for its new location.
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