Naperville has a reputation of being an art-centric community with a robust appreciation for culture, history, and innovation. Home to state-of-the-art Wentz Concert Hall and Century Walk, Naperville attracts a steady stream of theater goers and art explorers year round, all eager to experience its many offerings.

Realizing the many benefits of an enlivened city, Naperville instituted the Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund in 2004 to help feed the initiatives of the nonprofit organizations falling within its boundaries. To support the fund, a one percent food and beverage tax is funneled into a bucket that is then be doled out to worthy grant recipients. Capped at $1.9 million, the fund earmarks $1.1 million to cover city obligations and the remaining $800,000 is allocated to numerous projects and events under consideration.

The City received 62 grant applications for the 2018 funding year, with requests totaling $1,812,242, more than double the amount of available funds. To assist the decision making process, the Advisory Cultural Commission evaluated all of the applications and prepared a list of their unified recommendations. Before presenting their findings to City Council, the Commission hosted an open forum where all grant applicants were invited to plead their cases and answer questions in an effort to increase their piece of the SECA pie.

Representatives from many of the organizations in consideration were in attendance, each given three minutes to tell their story: Naperville Sister Cities, German American Events, Naperville Art League, the Exchange Club were present and spoke on behalf of “Light the Way to New Connections” Anniversary Celebration, Christkindlmarket, Riverwalk Fine Art Fair, and Ribfest.

Leadership from Summer Place, Inc. and Young Naperville Singers spoke of the unique impact of their theater and choral groups. And more, many more told of their hard work and their contributions to the City as a whole. Devotion was rampant and reinforced the dedication of these impassioned players and the joy that they bring to Naperville.

Armed with new information, the commission will revise its recommendations and hand them over to City Council for review. In what must be one of its most difficult tasks, Council will make final determinations in late November. As hopefuls wait for the final verdict, they realize some adjustments may have to be made to their original plans. Even so, Naperville’s art community will play a major role in the vibrancy of a new year.

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