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Springfield arts organizations faring better post-pandemic than those elsewhere

Panelists on stage
Molly Lamb
(L to R) Gus Gordon, Randy Eccles, and Sheila Walk.

Sheila Walk, retiring executive director, Springfield Area Arts Council, and Gus Gordon, executive director, Hoogland Center for the Arts, join Randy Eccles in a Citizens Club of Springfield/NPR Illinois collaboration to examine the role of the arts in our community.


The arts add to the vibrancy and attractiveness of a community. Springfield organizations are mostly healthy since the pandemic, but not all survived. Gordon worried during the pandemic that if the “Pause” lasted more than six months, the Hoogland wouldn’t be able to survive. The importance of the Center, serving as the landlord for arts groups and providing a secure space for rehearsals, meetings, and community events has at least met if not exceeded the vision of its founders 20 years ago.

Diversity is improving as organizations have added it as a lens in their planning and decisions including programming.

The perpetual state of being broke for artists and organizations was illustrated as why donor philanthropy and fundraising are important. Collaborations between non-profit organizations and opportunities for joint visual and performing arts events help maximize reach and resources. Research shared noted over 80% of people believe arts and culture are important to local businesses and the quality of life.

This year’s "First Night" features many diverse artists and arts groups and celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

During the audience portion of the forum, the integration of arts education with vocational programs is suggested. Walk notes small grant programs supporting schools could be used to support this .

Attendees also express appreciation for the arts in Springfield, emphasizing its role in enhancing the quality of life, providing identity, and contributing to the city's economic vibrancy.

This summary is an AI pilot and received human review and editing.

Randy Eccles is thrilled to be talking with community members and joining them in becoming informed citizenry. Please reach out at randy.eccles@nprillinois.org.
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