The Board of Directors of the Rockford Area Arts Council made a very tough decision to discontinue First Night Rockford. As we know, festivals have a life expectancy and thanks to dedicated staff, volunteers and supporters, First Night had a great run. A thank you goes to the visionaries who 14 years ago followed a trend in our country to pursue alcohol-free, family-friendly events on New Years Eve. Thanks also to the unbelievable committee who worked incredibly hard to produce a quality event. Their attention to detail and dedication to bringing excellent performers to the venues, is the secret to the success of First Night.
The volunteer base is immense. Volunteers were responsible for many facets of the event from set up, take down, selling buttons and setting the tone with cool decorations. The downtown venues supported the event and let us into their homes graciously.
I hope the downtown will still come to life on Dec. 31. I believe some of the venues will take this opportunity to do their own programming. Restaurants could have festivities and hire local talent to entertain. The Rockford Area Arts Council will continue to raise funds to follow its mission of supporting, promoting and developing the arts for everyone. I am working with the Board, artists and arts organizations to bring new ideas to life. I have had artists come to my office, or I have visited them in their galleries to brainstorm how the arts can be more visible in Rockford. ArtScene will be Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, and there are some great ideas about circulating attendees to more galleries, exposing them to a wide range of visual artists.
Difficult decisions are simply part of life. As the adage goes, when one door closes, another one opens.
Anne E. OKeefe is executive director of the Rockford Area Arts Council.
From the June 29-July 5, 2005, issue