Investing in the Arts Community

The Arts Mean Business Fund combines economic development with investment in the arts.
by Mark Roberts, Community Foundation of Central Illinois
John and Sharon Amdall
John and Sharon Amdall understand that the arts are much more than a source of entertainment. Photo by Keith Cotton

In the summer of 2017, the Community Foundation of Central Illinois (CFCI) established The Arts Mean Business Fund to generate economic growth through arts tourism, arts-related businesses, integrating the arts into urban planning, and expanding current arts programs.

Created through a generous donation by John and Sharon Amdall, The Arts Mean Business Fund is helping to make the Heart of Illinois a more attractive location for residents and visitors who love the arts. Since its establishment, numerous organizations have received needed support to advance their missions, including:

  • Peoria Park District Foundation/Peoria Playhouse Children’s Museum—The “Magic Carpet” program engages young visitors and their families with an active artist who collaborates to create installation art and recyclables for the Playhouse porch.
  • Peoria Riverfront Museum—Museum staff members have developed a four-step program that takes the sale of local art to the next level by serving as a resource for working artists throughout the region.
  • Friends of Wildlife Prairie Park—An expansion of the park’s “Art in the Wild” event will include an exhibit of duck decoys and activities for area children. The team at Wildlife Prairie Park is committed to furthering Peoria’s reputation as an arts destination while highlighting the community’s waterfowl heritage.

These grants are aligned with the Amdalls’ larger vision to combine economic development with the arts. Over the past year, I have had numerous discussions with local artists and arts patrons who share this vision.

One conversation I found particularly enlightening was with a young filmmaker who spoke of her love for the Peoria community, and her desire to live and work here as an artist. However, she also detailed the very real financial challenges that many artists face in a community the size of Peoria, with a lack of buyers and other funding sources when compared to larger urban areas like Chicago. This discussion reinforced in my mind the importance of The Arts Mean Business Fund, and its mission to help the Greater Peoria area gain a national reputation as an arts destination. That would be good for everyone, including local businesses, units of government, residents and artists alike.

John and Sharon Amdall came to the Community Foundation with a plan to take a fixed amount of money and—when leveraged with the donations of others in the community—to grow it into something larger that benefits us all. This is a unique opportunity to invest in the arts and create jobs, advance educational opportunities and promote our talented artists.
We’re off to a good start with the funds we have allocated so far, but to truly make an impact on the local economy through the arts and artists in our community, we need others to come alongside us in support of The Arts Mean Business Fund. By working together, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for our amazing arts community. PM 

Mark Roberts is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois. For more information about The Arts Mean Business Fund or to learn more about CFCI, call (309) 674-8730.

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