State museum in Lockport re-opens with a full house

lockport gallery opening

A call for area artists to donate original artwork for an exhibit helped fill the walls again at the Illinois State Museum in Lockport. “The People’s Show,” a non-juried exhibit, opens Friday, July 31, 2015, with a reception at 6 p.m. The exhibit comes a month after state officials pulled exhibits from all museums because of the state’s budget crisis.

July 30, 2015, 9:32 p.m.

By Alicia Fabbre Daily Southtown

Four weeks ago, John Lustig was looking at blank walls inside the Illinois State Museum in Lockport.

With Illinois in budget crisis, the exhibits were removed from the building when the state could not cover insurance for the museum.

The museum re-opens Friday night with a new exhibit dubbed “The People’s Show.” The non-juried art show, which opens with a reception at 6 p.m., features 252 works of art from 115 artists from across the state. The show will be part of Lockport’s 2015 Summer Art Series.

Lockport reopens state-shuttered museum, calls on artists

Of the five museums run by the state, the Lockport museum is the only one that is re-opening and has an exhibit, Lustig said.

“We’ve got a full house,” said Lustig, museum director. “We’re very excited.”

Lustig put out a call last week for artists to lend the museum pieces to put on display. By Monday afternoon — less than 30 hours after his request made local news — a sign on the museum’s front door informed artists the museum had enough artwork and could no longer accept any additional pieces for the exhibit.

Museum staff — which includes Lustig and one full-time employee — have worked throughout the week to arrange the pieces. Artwork includes portraits, abstract pieces, photography and some sculptures. One piece, by artist Julia Haw, is a work that comments on the state’s budget crisis and politicians’ readiness to cut funding for the arts. Haw’s work was on display in the museum before it was closed. Lockport Mayor Steve Streit and his 9-year-old daughter also have artwork featured in the exhibit.

Though the museum has not yet received any state funding, the City of Lockport agreed to extend its insurance to cover the museum building. It remains unclear if the museum will be given funding to continue operations. Lustig said the museum’s annual operating budget is $190,000, but the cost of utilities is not covered in that budget.

“The idea that we would take away the arts in the State of Illinois is incomprehensible to me,” said Streit’s wife, Wendy, who also chairs the Summer Art Series committee.

Lustig said he testified at hearings earlier this month about the museum budget. An Aug. 5 meeting of a state committee will continue discussions about museum funding, Lustig said.

Lustig said he plans to keep “The People’s Show” open as long as possible. He noted if state funding is restored, it would still take two to three months to set up a new display.

“The People’s Show” can be viewed at the museum, located at 201 W. 10th Street, from 6 to 9 p.m. today. The museum also will be open from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sundays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Alicia Fabbre is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

Copyright © 2015, Daily Southtown


After the Rally: How to Help Save the Illinois State Museum

rally panorama crop aaron (click for larger image)

Thanks to all who attended and our great speakers, the rally was a huge success. Check out our Rally album of photos on FB. Likewise, over 500 pages of public comments were submitted to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability by people from all walks of life and around the world.

What happens next?

Senator Any Manar has introduced a bill to keep the ISM open. We will be asking for your help soon, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here are ways to help.

  • Sign the petition and share with your friends. We submitted over 11,000 signatures to the Governor on Rally day, but want to reach 15,000 by August 1. Help us by inviting your friends to sign it.
  • Like the FB page and invite your friends to like it. There’s no need to sign up for FB to see it.

Thanks again for being a part of democracy in action!

Lockport reopens state shuttered museum, calls on artists

lockport front large

By Frank Vaisvilas Daily Southtown

Lockport turns to “The People’s Show” to reopen its Illinois Museum

Lockport Mayor Steve Streit was dumbfounded when state workers suddenly packed up exhibit pieces and closed the Illinois Museum in the city’s downtown July 1 without informing him, and he vowed to reopen it.

“If Springfield can’t do it, we’ll do it,” he said at a July city council meeting. “Let’s fill it up. Let’s make a statement.”

The museum served as an art gallery and featured exhibits from artists around the country.

Gallery director John Lustig said he had to close the museum and return the artwork to its owners because the state stopped paying for the building’s insurance during the current budget crisis. The state’s fiscal year ended in July and nothing has yet been budgeted toward its museums.

The museum gallery is located in the historic Norton Building, 201 W. 10th St., which was built around 1850.

Streit said the city could’ve provided insurance for the building without the exhibit for the city’s 2015 Summer Art Series having to be cut short.

Now, the city has stepped in to provide insurance for the building at no additional cost, according to Lockport finance director Lisa Heglund, by simply adding it to the city’s policy.

But the artwork originally displayed had already been cleared out, so Streit and Lustig are calling on local artists to contribute to a new exhibit.

Lustig said the gallery can fit about 120 pieces of art and the “The People’s Show” exhibit is non-juried, meaning all skill levels are welcome.

He said people can begin bringing artwork Sunday afternoon and throughout the daytime hours during the week until the exhibit is filled for Friday’s opening. An event on Sunday also includes product demonstrations Dick Blick art materials and crafts for children.

Lustig said he’s open to accepting all kinds of artwork but will usually steer away from anything too political, controversial or violent.

One featured artwork in the show will be that of Julia Haw whose work had been in the gallery before it was closed.

She said rather than returning with the art she had originally displayed she wanted to work on a piece that comments on the state’s budget woes and lawmakers’ readiness to cut funding for the arts.

“I think people will understand it right away but will probably be a little upset,” Haw said.

It’s unclear when or if Springfield will continue funding for the Lockport gallery.

“Even if the budget passed today it would take two to three months just to get everything back up,” Lustig said.

So he said he expects “The People’s Show” to run for at least three months.

Meanwhile Lustig, along with many other state workers, is uncertain if he’ll be permanently laid off and hopes a budget passes soon and includes funding for his agency.

He said the museum’s annual operating expense is about $190,000, but utilities are not figured into that budget.

If his Lockport gallery has a future, he said the next exhibit he’d like to work on includes the toys of yesteryear, such as Lincoln Logs and Raggedy Ann.

Frank Vaisvilas is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

Members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability

Members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability

This Commission is charged with making a recommendation to the Governor whether or not the ISM should be closed. They have asked for public comments. Please submit written comments until the closing date of July 23.

A public hearing is set for July 13, 4:00 pm in Room 212 of the Capitol Building. We need you to attend and sign in as a witness in opposition–you need not testify.

If your legislator is on the Commission, we urge you to contact them before the hearing.

*Sen. Donne Trotter (D: 17th District)      Co-Chair      Chicago

(217) 782-3201 or (773) 933-7715              Website               District Map

*Rep. Donald Moffitt (R: 74th District)        Co-Chair   Galesburg, Kewanee

(217) 782-8032 or (309) 343-8000              Website/Email       District Map

*Sen. David Koehler (D: 46th District)        Peoria area

(217) 782-8250 or (309) 677-0120               Website/Email       District Map

*Rep. Kelly Burke (D: 36th District)              Oak Lawn

(217) 782-0515 or (708) 425-0571                Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Matt Murphy (R: 27th District)            NW Chicago suburbs

(217) 782-4471 or (847) 776-1490                 Website/Email         District Map

*Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D: 57th District)          NW Chicago suburbs

(217) 782-1004 or (847) 229-5499                Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Chapin Rose (R: 51th District)            Champaign/Decatur area

(217) 558-1006, (217) 607-1853 (C)              Website/Email         District Map

217-330-9356 (Decatur)

*Rep. Raymond Poe (R: 99th District)          Springfield area

(217) 782-0044                                              Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Heather Sterns (D: 7th District)            North City,  Chicago

(217) 782-8492 or (773)-769-1717                 Website/Email        District Map

*Rep. Al Riley (D: 38th District)                       South Chicago suburbs

(217) 558-1007 or (708) 799-4364                  Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Dave Syverson (R: 35th District)            Rockford, DeKalb, Winnebago Co.

(217)  782-5413 or (815)-987-7555                 Website/Email        District Map

Rep. Michael Unes R: (91st District)                 E. Peoria, Pekin, Canton, Lewistown, Fulton Co.

(217) 782-8152 or (309) 620-8631                    Website/Email        District Map



  1. Submit public comments to the Commission

–Use our cut & paste talking points on this blog to build your comments

–Read public comments (follow link) already submitted to get ideas

2.    Contact Commission Members in your area. (See Members blog post here.)

3.    Come to the public hearing July 13, 4:00 p.m. @ Rm 212 Capitol Bldg. Check in as a witness in opposition—you do not have to testify.

4.     Come to the Rally July 21 at Noon at the Capitol Bldg. Bring your friends of all ages! We’ll have signs and tees.

5.     Sign the petition and share with friends. We plan to submit 10,000+ signatures to the Commission on Rally day.

6.     Like the FB page and invite your friends to like it. There’s no need to sign up for FB to see it.

7.    Check out the rest of our blog. Sign up to get an email whenever we post.