Gov. JB Pritzker visited Illinois State University on Thursday to announce the long-awaited Fine Arts Complex renovation is finally going to happen.
Pritzker said $52.3 million in funding was recently released by the Illinois Capital Development Board, as part of the state’s new capital funding plan. With the release of funds, ISU can resume working with its architects on the planning and design phase of the project. A construction timeline was not released.
“Our young people should be given the tools to shape their own futures. And it’s one of the best investments we can make,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker is the third governor to visit ISU in the past seven years promising to get the Fine Arts Complex done. Former Gov. Pat Quinn came in 2013 to announce the release of funds. That began the design and architectural process, but the project stalled at the state level. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner came during his unsuccessful campaign for re-election in 2018, promising to “work his tail off” to pass a capital bill. He lost to Pritzker five months later.
Pritzker was able to pass the capital bill, with bipartisan support. He was joined on stage Thursday by state Sens. Bill Brady and Jason Barickman and Rep. Dan Brady, all Republicans from Bloomington-Normal. Illinois is funding the $45 billion capital bill by doubling the state’s gas tax, raising vehicle registration fees, and increasing the cigarette tax, among other changes.
“The Fine Arts Complex renovation has been high on Illinois State University’s priority list for the past decade,” President Larry Dietz said. “This long-awaited project will provide a much-needed new space for the excellent programs within the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts.”
The project will be a combination of renovation and new construction that will enhance instructional spaces in Centennial East and Centennial West, both constructed in 1959; the Center for the Visual Arts, constructed in 1973; and the Center for the Performing Arts, completed in 2002.
The total project cost is $61.9 million. That includes the $52.3 million, plus $9.6 million previously released for emergency repairs.
Dean Jean Miller said the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts has seen “impressive enrollment growth” in several of its programs, including creative technologies and design, teacher education, and music therapy and performance.
“With the Fine Arts Complex project, we will be able to offer our students state-of-the-art facilities to match their talent, academic studies and creative work,” Miller said.
After past delays, Wonsook Kim School of Art Director Michael Wille said he was optimistic.
“I have the highest level of optimism that I’ve ever had,” Wille said. “Hearing the governor and seeing the state representative and two senators all seem in unison on this on stage—that was really inspiring for me and our faculty. I have a high degree of confidence.”
The state's capital bill, dubbed Rebuild Illinois, also targets $89.2 million to renovate Milner Library, plus another $40.4 million for deferred maintenance.
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