Nov AOM Darby Head ShotDarby Ortolano is an artist in Murphysboro. She’s been creating art for nearly 50 years. Ortolano works mainly with clay, creating functional pottery and wall pieces.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?     

I started in 1970!  That was a long time ago, and I was a young single mother living and working in New York City. For the next 20 years, I took many ceramic classes and shared a group studio and store in the East Village. Essentially, I never stopped working at my art, even as I pursued a career in human resources. In 1990, I left New York to attend the Kansas City Art Institute nov aom vases1(KCAI). I was on my way to some serious work and study.  

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?    

I came to Illinois to attend the Master of Fine Arts program in Ceramics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). After two years at KCAI, I knew I would never give up my work in clay. The program here was known for its focus on “functional pottery,” and I spent three glorious years working as hard as I’ve ever worked. When I graduated, I was invited to stay as a visiting instructor in the ceramics program at SIUC for two years. Teaching and living in Illinois prepared me to stay in the area. Within a short time, I was hired by John A. Logan Community College. I spent the next 12 years teaching full-time in their art program.

nov aom red kettleWhat opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists? 

I live in a rural part of Illinois, and the opportunities to show are limited. There is a venue connected to the Carbondale Community Art program (which is partly funded by the Illinois Arts Council), a scattering of galleries, an outdoor fine art fair and SIUC still has holiday craft fairs. We miss the Illinois State Museum facility at Rend Lake, which was a wonderful venue for Illinois artists. The SIUC University Museum has been closed for a year but is now projected to reopen next year.

The opportunity to be connected to other artists is a reason many artists stay here. Also, the cost of living is definitely lower than any big city, and this area is beautiful. We are only two hours away from St. Louis, four hours from Memphis and Louisville, and five hours from Chicago.   

What do you like about Illinois?

Aside from the family and friends I have here, I would have to say that rural Southern Illinois is astonishingly beautiful. Gone are the flat plains of the Illinois heartland; here you run into the hills, valleys and cliffs of the Shawnee National Forest. There are gorgeous lakes for boating and fishing; vibrant grape growing and winemaking businesses with award-winning wines; and hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and biking are all easily accessible. In response to this natural beauty, there is a growing tourism business with multitudes of secluded cabins for rent for those who wish to experience the activities and landscape of the area. Giant City State Park is unique and beautifully maintained. Our local towns – Carbondale, Murphysboro, Cobden, Alto Pass, and Anna to name just a few –  offer areas of charm and culture. And Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers venues, award-winning plays, musicals, concerts and well-known lecturers. Because of the influence of the foreign-born professionals and students, we also have a diverse population and excellent restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. My hometown of MurphysboroNov AOM Circle Flowers is also the Barbeque Capital of Illinois!  

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I work in clay, and at various times that has included porcelain, stoneware and earthenware. I now work mainly in mid-range white stoneware. I also use a variety of glazes, and throughout my career have used other types of clay surfaces. I primarily make functional ware, and I enjoy playing around with forms and combination of forms to enhance the experience of using functional pottery. Most recently, however, I’ve been inspired to create intricate wall sculptures, which has been most satisfying!

Where can people view or purchase your work?

I have work at the Anthill Gallery in Cobden and the Carbondale Community Arts shop304 showcase. You can click here to see my work on Facebook. I will soon be selling online, which I will announce on my Facebook page. You can also click here to see my work on the Oak Street Art Group’s website. The Oak Street Art Group is made up of five artists, all who live and work in the Murphysboro area. We sponsor an Oak Street Fine Nov AOM Blooming VaseArts Fair in the spring, have group shows and promote local artists in our community. I am also a member of the Shawnee Hills Pottery Tour, an annual tour of ceramic artist studios in Southern Illinois. You can read more about that here.  

What artist inspires you and why?

I would have to say that I am inspired by the history of ceramic art, primarily Asian. I was trained as a functional potter, which includes paying attention to proportion, balance, form, surface treatment and use. Those attributes were at their height in historical Japanese, Chinese and Korean pottery. I have taken those standards and infused them with my own aesthetic interests, which primarily center on forms from the natural world. Early on, I decorated my pots with colorful abstractions of natural forms. More recently, the functional work can be either simply covered with a soft white glaze, or by a colorful bright glaze. The forms themselves relate to nature’s forms. I let my work speak for itself. My recent sculptural work is directly inspired by the natural world and my interpretation of it. 

halloweenkidsAccording to a study done by SmartAsset, the Midwest has the overall safest cities to trick-or-treat in. Seven of the top 10 cities were found in the Midwest, including two of our very own cities, Aurora and Elgin.

Aurora was ranked number 4 because of its low crime rates and its population density, which makes it not only safe but gives children the opportunity to have their bags filled by the end of the night. Aurora’s trick-or-treating hours are 4:30 – 7 p.m. on Halloween.

Elgin was also recognized and ranked number 9 as one of the safest cities to trick-or-treat in by having the lowest property crime rate in the study. The city of Elgin has trick-or-treating hours on Halloween from 4 – 7 p.m.

Although the study recognized and applauded the top 10 safest cities, Joliet was close behind, ranked number 11.

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When policymakers and economists discuss economic development, they often speak in terms of manufacturing jobs, corporate relocations, tech incubators and local workforces. One overlooked economic driver that has received more attention with each year of growth is the tourism industry.

The tourism industry is the third-largest employer in Illinois. Over the past two years, the industry has created 20,000 new jobs from Chicago to Galena to Carbondale. Every $1 invested in tourism generates $9 in economic activity and impact. This money pours into restaurants, nightlife and tourist attractions. Tourism industry experts in Chicagoland reported selling 1.27 million hotel room nights in Fiscal Year 2017. Chicago is on pace to attract 54 million visitors by the end of the current year.

In recent years, Chicago has outpaced the national average for tourism growth. With its Michelin-star restaurants, renowned performance venues, famous museums and ample transportation infrastructure, the city is home to plenty of world-class attractions that are easily accessible by planes, trains and cars.

Located just steps from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is Navy Pier, which is the most-visited tourist destination in Illinois and the Midwest. Navy Pier attracts over 9.3 million visitors annually. As Navy Pier celebrates its centennial this year, developers have renovated and updated the premises. They have installed a new 200-foot Ferris wheel, a bandstand, environmentally sustainable landscaping, new docks and a site for a hotel with views of the skyline.

The Ferris wheel is a significant piece of Chicago’s history. The Ferris wheel was invented by Illinois engineer George Washington Ferris for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Ferris wheel built for the World’s Fair stood an astounding 25 stories high and could hold nearly 1,500 passengers. Today, the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier is homage to Chicago’s history.

The work that officials at Navy Pier and countless other attractions around Illinois have done to keep up with trends and priorities in the hospitality and tourism industries exemplifies what keeps Illinois among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Investments to preserve what has attracted crowds in the past and investments to draw in new generations of visitors are important to a region’s long-term success as a tourism hub and strong economy. Condé Nast Traveler readers recently voted Chicago the top big U.S. city for tourism, which is an improvement after third- and second-place showings in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Chicago’s impressive achievement of attracting 54 million visitors in 2017 suggests that tourism efforts are progressing toward the city’s goal of 55 million visitors per year by 2020.

Beyond Chicagoland, tourism is booming in smaller towns like Champaign-Urbana. Like other towns in rural parts of the state, restauranteurs in the central Illinois metro area are taking advantage of Illinois’ strong agriculture by building a culinary scene around local produce. In recognition of the exciting and diverse culinary scene, readers of Midwest Living magazine recently named Champaign-Urbana a “Great Food Town in the Midwest.” Champaign-Urbana is also known for its craft brewing scene, its art and science museums and all of the amenities that go along with having a world-class university in town.

Recent reports show that the tourism sector is poised to continue expanding in Illinois. Public and private interests are working together to incentivize future development and take advantage of the economic growth that comes with a strong tourism industry.

Alexa Frank is an artist from Springfield who now resides in Chicago. She creates acrylic paintings using bright colors and high contrast.  Alexa Headshot

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?

Cub ChanceI took my first art class in high school; it was just a hobby at the time actually. In college I would paint simply for the joy of it. I love the feeling of the whole process… thinking of a dope idea, preparing and sketching, painting, and then the excitement of finally looking at the finished piece. 

 

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

I have lived in Illinois my whole life, so I guess I am a little biased for this question. It helps to live and work in a place where you are surrounded by your family and friends, and it helps even more when they support your passion. So living in a place where I can do what I love and be with the people I love says it all right there.

 

What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?

Local businesses in the Springfield area are always supporting local art, which is always so great to see walking in to places. I currently live in Chicago, and it seems like every weekend a different neighborhood has an art festival. The talent at these things… amazing!   

What do you like about Illinois? 

Triangle

I love that I can get the best of both worlds in Illinois. I can enjoy the beautiful city of Chicago on a daily basis, and I can also enjoy weekends in Springfield spending time with my family. The balance is perfect. 

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I love to paint with acrylic paints, especially bright colors and high contrast.   

SkeletonWhere can people view or purchase your work?

People can view my work on Etsy by clicking here. I mainly do custom work so if people have ideas they throw them at me, and it’s my job to make it come to life.  

What artist inspires you and why?

Takashi Murakami has inspired me. He is a contemporary artist who loves to use pop culture and create artwork. He uses mixed media and loves to create pieces with both detail and abstraction. You can tell all of his work has a story behind it, which is the best part.  

 

Professor Richard H ThalerUniversity of Chicago professor Richard H. Thaler – whose work has persuaded many economists to pay more attention to human behavior and government officials to pay more attention to economics – was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on October 9.

Thaler, who teaches economics and behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is a leading expert in a relatively new field that combines psychology and economics. He is considered a pioneer for moving economics toward a more realistic understanding of human behavior, and for using the resulting insights to improve public policy.

Born in East Orange, New Jersey, Thaler received his undergraduate degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1967 nd his PhD in economics from the University of Rochester in 1974. He has spent his career developing an idea that challenges mainstream economics: humans aren’t always rational and they don’t always act in their best interests.

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