The Arts of Starved Rock Country OmniHonors Celebration showcases the Arts community

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“I’ve decided I’m never going to retire,” said Burton, who was the lead artist on the women’s suffrage sculpture, a 15-foot, three-panel mosaic tower along the Rock River in Rockford. “I absolutely love what I do.” Burton, who specializes in large-scale sculptures and mosaics, said she’s completed 15 works of public art in Starved Rock Country, and eight in Rockford, with three more planned. “Be brave, think big,” Burton said to fellow artists in attendance. “You have no limits.” The other nominees for the evening’s top award were arts enthusiast Amber Harper of Princeton, and Steve Sharp, an award-winning musician and music educator.

International mezzo-soprano Kate Tombaugh received the Individual Artist Award. Kate also founded Poco a Poco, a weeklong program training youth in a variety of voice and musical techniques. Kate received her honor among nine other nominees: Clara Brubaker, Gavin Finefield, Jacqueline Hughes, Matthew Klein, Frank Kobilsek, Kevin Kramer, Lorena Malm, Adrienne Pike and Joey Santos.

High School music instructor Julie Jenkins was honored with the Arts Educator Award. Jenkins was chosen for the award among nominees Brandon Czubachowski, Donna Martin, Sarah Reckmeyer, Alicia Sesto and Steve Sharp. “The most rewarding part is I get to work with artists every single day,” Jenkins told those in attendance after receiving her award. “I cherish the moments I get to spend with them.”

The Benson family, which includes Christine, Rex and Stephanie, was chosen for the Arts Advocate Award for their work co-founding the Mendota Education Foundation and organizing an annual summer musical to raise funds for the Foundation. The Fund has financed the Mendota High School orchestra pit, among other initiatives. Rick Brooks also was selected for the Arts Art Advocate award for co-founding the Little Free Library program, Midwest Partners in Princeton and The Bicycle Place, which is driven by volunteers. “Life is art,” Brooks said. “Art is how we express our heart.” Dylan Conmy, Julia Mautino Messina and Heather Pursley were also nominated.

The Community Impact Award was bestowed om NCI Artworks in Peru. Julia Mautino Messina accepted the award. As the Executive Director, Julie has completed projects such as the Mendota Union Depot and the Seneca mural, and provides monthly receptions for local artists, arranges trips through Arts on the Go, and develops landmark events such as a retrospective on the life and art of St. Bede Academy’s Father Joseph Heyd. The Ottawa Art League, Ottawa Community Thrift, the city of Princeton Public Arts Commission and Stage 212 were also nominated for the Community Impact Award.

A special tribute was expressed for John Fischer-Dann, who received a posthumous lifetime achievement award. Fischer-Dann operated City Folk Urban Decor in Ottawa. He collected a variety of art traveling the world and sharing his knowledge and love for all things art with the Ottawa community.

The Arts of Starved Rock Country Fund, which is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, provides a noncompetitive, neutral hub to partner with local artists, educators, advocates and cultural organizations. Competitive grant opportunities are available to arts organizations, schools, museums and libraries throughout Starved Rock Country. The fund was started more than 40 years ago as the Illinois Valley Fine Arts Trust by local philanthropist Blouke Carus and his family, who chose the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation to carry forward its mission.

 More information about the Arts of Starved Rock Country Fund can be found by contacting Amanda Zehr at  Learn more about art grants and other initiatives here.

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