The Illinois Arts Alliance reported Gov. Blagojevich signed a bill into law July 30 keeping the Illinois Arts Council’s budget at $19.6 millions for FY 2005. They said, "Funding at this level will position the Illinois Arts Council to provide a strong response to the needs of all the arts in the state. We believe this successful outcome is a result of more than 3,500 letters that were sent by arts advocates to the Governor and legislators during this session." Kudos to arts advocacy!

Members from the Illinois Arts Advocacy and Foundation were in Peoria in July-for their first time-to hold a cultural roundtable. The Peoria Art Guild hosted other members of various area arts and cultural groups for the informational event. Said a Chicagoan, "It was an easy drive and was great to get a glimpse of the wonderful work happening in the greater Peoria area." Yes, the arts are alive in central Illinois. The two left with Peoria area information, copies of Arts Alive! magazine, and a positive opinion of the arts at play in Peoria.

The Illinois Arts Alliance was founded in 1982 by a small group of artists and arts administrators who joined forces to combat the threatened elimination of state funding for the arts in Illinois. They succeeded then, and they continue to work effectively to protect Illinois Arts Council funding and to improve public and private support for the arts all over Illinois.

Along with the good news for the 2005 state budget came the bad news: "According to Americans for the Arts, the House Appropriations Committee has approved a Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill that includes no funding for Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education." Hopefully, the Senate will restore this funding in September.

Cuts in funding for public education of our leaders of tomorrow have reached critical levels. At no time in our nation’s history has the United States needed to focus more on literacy, foreign languages, art, music, and the humanities-while not forgetting the basics of math and science. Having recently gone through the college admissions requirements with my daughter, it was evident that students who speak and understand a second language, have experienced and are tolerant of other cultures, and have benefited from the arts have a definite competitive edge. They’re comfortable in various social and classroom settings today, which should translate into highly marketable careers in a few years. That is, of course, the desirable goal: that dependent children grow up into independent, responsible citizens. We must provide the tools to encourage a well-rounded education-one that’s available to all.

Become involved in the education of your children and grandchildren. Become an advocate for the arts. Learn about your elected officials, and vote each time there’s an opportunity. Actively lobby your representatives for the issues you care about. The Illinois Arts Alliance is making a difference. You can join them. AA!