Heun: St. Charles Arts Council to hold plein air competition

For those who may not realize, the number of fine arts and performing arts options in the Tri-Cities area can be mind-boggling. It’s far beyond “What is there to do?” to be more like “How can we keep track of everything going on around here.”

Kathryn Hill knows a little bit about this nice problem. She worked for a large arts organization in Michigan for about 10 years before landing in St. Charles and, five years ago, accepting the role of director of the St. Charles Arts Council.

St. Charles Arts Council director Kathryn Hill wants to increase the public’s awareness of all the arts events, locations and promotions the city has to offer. Courtesy of St. Charles Arts Council

A key part of Hill’s job, which is a part-time gig, is to collect all of the information she can each week from various art galleries, community art festivals, local theaters, and anything the council is hosting or promoting.

She puts it together in an email blast to a list of 2,700 addresses to get the information in the public eye, then allows the council website, news releases and word-of-mouth to do their magic.

But what if people are frozen by information overload and don’t always grasp what is happening around here and what sorts of places and events provide adventures into the arts? Or, worse, get the notion that the council is simply pushing one thing like art galleries — and maybe that’s not their “thing.”

“I deal with that every day,” Hill said of potential misconceptions. “I decided years ago that there is nothing I can do about that. It is not productive for me to try to convince someone to go to something they may not enjoy.”

More importantly, Hill wants the council to present artists and events in all genres that hit high standards with their crafts, be it painting, music or theater.

“I say do quality work for what we present and let people know that it is there,” Hill said. “There is enough interest in creativity and creative thought and entertainment, and if we put out a quality product, we will be successful. I am a true believer in the value of the arts.”

Hill also knows a simple form of marketing. If something you tried resonated with people, it might not hurt to try it again.

An overhead shot of the council’s Paint the Riverside event in 2023 (painting the pavement of Riverside Drive). Courtesy of St. Charles Arts Council

That would be the case for the council’s upcoming “Plein Air — St. Charles” event from Aug. 19 to 25, bringing painters from the Midwest to compete for monetary awards when painting outdoor scenes in Kane County. A painter sets up a spot to paint an outdoor scene with the hope of possibly selling the piece. The council hopes as many as 30 artists will register for the event.

Plans include a “celebrate your creativity” day at the gazebo in Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles that week for several artists to gather and do a “quick paint” so the public can visit all participants in one spot.

On other days, the painters will spread throughout town and other parts of the county. Hill hopes the council can have technology to let people use their phones to locate the artists.

The council tried the Plein Air concept at its fine arts festival last year, and it went over well — for a one-day event — with three paintings being sold. The council is betting that a weeklong event could be even more popular.

Hill continues to look for ways for the council to continue the mission started 14 years ago by Elizabeth Bellaver, Sue McDowell and other volunteers.

Hill came on board just before the COVID pandemic hit, saying that the pause in the action allowed her to think about plans and obtain ideas and information about the council.

“We had a year to plan, and hopefully it worked out well,” she said. “I knew enough to be dangerous when I first got here, and I knew how to get the council from point A to point B.

“When things opened up again after COVID, we were fully loaded and ready to go. I think it has worked out beautifully.”

In the meantime, Hill puts up a good fight for arts awareness.

“People may say, I wish we had an art gallery in town, and I say, well we do, with 116 Gallery, Mixology and the Norris Cultural Arts Center,” Hill noted. “Others may say, I wish we had live theater, and I say, well we do, we have seven live theaters in the area.”

Ultimately, we all could work harder on our arts awareness. As Hill says about those seeking something to do, “If they aren’t paying attention, I can’t help them with that.”

Time to start grilling

Stores tend to tease us about spring and summer with all sorts of products at this time of year, but it seems to have more meaning during this mild winter.

When the Ace Hardware store on State Street in Geneva alerted customers that it was redesigning the front part of the store to become a grilling department, it likely stirred some immediate attention.

More so than any other winter in recent memory, you could look at new grills and accessories right now and think, “I am going to grill on the deck today.” That’s better than, “This could be nice in a few months.”

Some golf club construction

I drive past the Geneva Golf Club on South Street numerous times a week, and the amount of digging and building there had me wondering what was going on.

My guess was way off. I figured the new building going up behind the clubhouse was probably for indoor pickleball courts. Nope.

It’s a new maintenance building to replace one that was built in 1963 and had worn out its usefulness.

All of the digging along South Street is for connecting water and sewer lines into the new building.

I’m not a member of the private Geneva Golf Club, the oldest 9-hole course in Illinois, but I have played it in outings and with friends on a few occasions. Still, I wouldn’t have known that the pond at the eighth hole had been covered up to convert that into the underground stormwater detention area.

For someone who mostly drives by and glances at the clubhouse and course, the work represents some of the most noticeable changes I can remember, other than some of the residential buildings going on around its outskirts.

Club members, however, know 2007 was a busy year, resulting in a renovated clubhouse and a revamped six-lane pool.

The golf course was carved out of 40 rented acres of the McChesney family farm in 1900. And it’s been a nice gem for Geneva ever since.

Magic in the air

Getting a dose of magic a month ago when professional magician Terry Evanswood came home to St. Charles to perform at the Moonlight Theatre, it makes sense to keep that magic momentum going.

Author and magician William Pack will make a presentation about mind games and the science of “perception deception” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at the St. Charles Public Library.

Pack has been performing magic for more than 30 years after getting interested in the art when working his first job at age 11 in a magic shop in Chicago.

Those who want to learn how our brain tricks us into seeing things that aren’t really there can register for the presentation on the library website or by calling (630) 584-0076.

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