Maybe $1.85 million isn’t the biggest expense in Illinois and won’t make much of a dent in the state’s $14.4 billion bill backlog, but maybe a blank canvas is exactly the kind of artistic statement we need.
Let’s eliminate the Illinois Arts Council Agency from the state budget. They must have taken lessons on government efficiency from our local townships, spending $1 million on staff and overhead in 2016 to hand out $834,900 in grants.
The council is chaired by Shirley Madigan, who has been in that position since 1983. Funny, her husband, Mike, has been Illinois House Speaker since then, too.
Adam Andrzejewski, who runs OpenTheBooks.org, recently wrote in Forbes that the council has failed to meet for the past three years. They decide who gets what public money in the art world without ever discussing the matters in public.
And guess who gets the money? Their well-heeled friends.
Madigan’s alma mater received $95,100, another board member’s employer received $165,650 and yet another board member’s pet opera company received $503,000. Surprise! There’s little of artistic merit south of Interstate 80.
Madigan’s appointment expired July 1. Another 12 of the 21 board members’ terms are also expired.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has an opportunity to let someone else be a matron of the arts and appoint a majority of board members dedicated to either eliminating the council or at least making it a transparent organization that helps local artists rather than makes your taxes a minor revenue source for well-connected, large arts institutions.