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Petition Asks Governor to Release Funding for CPA

Drawings for the Center for Performing Arts

There is a renewed effort to secure funding for a major arts project in Macomb. The Center for Performing Arts has long been on Western Illinois University's wish list.

The state appropriated funding for it in the past and even held a ground breaking ceremony in 2011, but the money never materialized. Last spring, state lawmakers once again approved funding for the project and the governor signed off on it. The CPA would be built along Western Avenue between Browne Hall and the Corbin/Olson complex.

Interview Highlights

Billy Clow, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) at WIU, said there’s a petition circulating asking the governor to now release the money so that construction can begin.  

Clow told Tri States Public Radio he’s not sure how many signatures might be needed to be persuasive. He said the petition is not limited to Macomb and that  everyone is welcome to sign on. “The Center for Performing Arts really will be a regional showcase and bring a lot of opportunity to the community and the region,” Clow said.

The petition can be accessed at a number of locations in downtown Macomb including the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce office, the West Central Illinois Arts Center, MidAmerican National Bank, and Citizens Bank. 

CPA Costs

The state has budgeted $89 million to build the Center for Performing Arts. That’s more than what was originally designated for the CPA, but costs have climbed over the years as the project has sat on the back burner.

“We haven’t had a relook at the plans since 2015 and so, once we get the money, we will go back in and look at everything with the architects,” Clow said. “We are going to have to make some adjustments.”

Clow said they can stay within budget and still have a state of the art facility with performance spaces, dance studies, public spaces, and concert halls. “It’s an opportunity to bring in world class entertainment that we don’t have a venue for anywhere around here.”

Clow noted that the $89 million is earmarked specifically for construction costs,. “If we don’t get that money, it’s going to go someplace else to some other project. So we want to see that investment in western Illinois.”

Economic Feasibility Study

Credit WIU
Data released from the economic study

COFAC recently completed an economic feasibility survey with the current project cost estimates and construction timeline for the Center for Performing Arts.

Clow said it will take about 30 months and nearly 800 people to build the facility. “It’s going to contribute to the tax base of the community, it’s going to contribute to the overall economy in Macomb and the surrounding regions,” Clow said.

COFAC believes that the CPA will advance the importance of the performing arts and establish WIU as an arts destination in this region.

The study estimated the CPA would create $434,000 in economic input and attract nearly 7,000 people willing to drive two hours or more for performances at the facility.

“Macomb just needs to see this happen. It’s time for Macomb and Western Illinois University to be recognized by the state and by the legislature and the governor’s office and really show we are out there and we matter to people,” Clow said.

Private Donations

Fundraising efforts for the CPA have been underway for several years. Notably, donors are able to purchase naming rights for theater seats or performance spaces. Clow said one donor gave money for COFAC to purchase a Steinway Concert Grand Piano. Another, has given a sizable amount of money for the maintenance  of the building. 

"Once this building is built, we have maintenance funds already committed to the space and the building itself, which is kind of unheard of,” said Clow. That’s especially valuable given WIU’s backlog of deferred maintenance projects on campus.

Credit WIU
Drawings show the main theater inside the CPA

“There’s  a number of folks who have given quite a lot of time and treasure, not just one, but both who really want to see this come about. I think it’s due, I really think they deserve this opportunity to see this building open as we march into the future to see what the CPA can do for Western and the community of Macomb.”

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.