Elgin arts groups to see reduced funding

Updated 4/24/2012 5:20 PM

Four Elgin arts organizations that received money from the city last year through service agreements are being recommended for grant awards since those contracts were eliminated.

Elgin City Council members decided during the 2012 budget discussions to stop funding about a dozen nonprofits with contracts through the riverboat fund, which comes from local taxes on the Grand Victoria Casino. The Cultural Arts Commission got an extra $50,000 this year to help bridge the gap and council members created a riverboat grant to award $250,000.


Money from the city to Elgin arts organizations dropped about 64 percent this year, according to Cultural Arts Commission staff liaison Sylvia Grady. While the commission itself got more money from the council, arts organizations went from several funding opportunities to just one -- the commission's grants.

Based on recommendations by the Cultural Arts Commission, council members are expected to give preliminary approval to spending $28,000 to evenly distribute funds to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Hamilton Wings, Elgin OPERA and Children's Theater of Elgin.

The commission sets a grant limit of $7,000 per organization and unanimously voted to give all four organizations the highest amount, Grady said. That still represented a fairly drastic cut to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, which received $90,080 in 2011. Elgin OPERA got $25,000 last year, Hamilton Wings got $13,400 and Children's Theater of Elgin got $10,750.

"There were no favorites," Grady said about the grant process. "Nobody was getting special treatment."

The Boys and Girls Club of Elgin and Neighborhood Housing Services of the Fox Valley did get preferential consideration in the newly created riverboat grant, designed to fill a gap created by the other cuts to riverboat fund service agreements.

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Jerry Cain, ESO board chairman and president of Judson University, said he wishes the symphony could have received more money but expects plenty of Elgin organizations are feeling the same. Cain said the ESO will need to raise more money from donors and sell more tickets to patrons to fill the gap caused by the city's smaller contribution.

One of the latest projects is a benefit concert, Blizzard Bash, which starts at 6 p.m. June 17 at the Blizzard Theater at Elgin Community College, 1700 Spartan Drive.

Rich Ridenour and his son Brandon will perform as the community honors and roasts Harry Blizzard and his wife, Phyllis, on their 85th birthdays.

"All of the money that's raised will go to help cover this gap that we've missed here," Cain said. "We just have to be more creative."

The Cultural Arts Commission awarded about $35,000 in October in its regularly scheduled grant process. The city council will consider the latest round of funding during the committee of the whole meeting Wednesday. Leftover funds in the commission's budget will go toward a variety of arts-related projects and festivals as well as individual artist grants that are awarded throughout the year.


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