Agenda: Illinois Art Station envisions a new future, a new site


Illinois Art Station is on the move and is making plans for an expanded future at Bloomington-Normal.

Established two years ago and initially associated with Illinois State University, the Illinois Art Station (IAS) provides hands-on visual arts experiences to youth in the community. The organization has now set out on its own to chart a new course in the Twin Cities.

Laura Jaster, the new executive director of IAS, said the now public nonprofit will keep ties with the university as it explores new options within the community in helping children learn and grow by experiencing art.

“Art helps them use their voice through a creative outlet,” she said. “We really hope that we can achieve all children of our community. But we make special efforts to reach children who otherwise would not have these experiences. So we try to work with underserved populations.

Credit Illinois Art Station

Illinois Art Station hopes to expand into its proposed new location on Vernon Avenue in Normal.

Jaster acknowledged that the art station was fortunate to have been associated with the ISU when the IAS was established.

“We will continue to work in partnership with Illinois State University. Even now we have graduate assistants who come from ISU, and I think we will continue to have a very positive relationship with ISU, ”she said.

“We have established ourselves as an independent public not-for-profit institution. In many ways, this allows us to be more flexible and responsive to the community. I think it also allows us to become that of the community Illinois Art Station. They become owners in the sense that there is a lot more to which we can react. It’s really exciting for us.

The IAS is considering Vernon Avenue, near Constitution Trail, as the likely location to house its new permanent facility.

“It will be so wonderful to be able to invite people over to our house and really make a home,” said Jaster, a recent appointment as Executive Director.

“We’ve done a lot of really good work, but we can also go beyond. We could reach a lot more people in our community. I would like Illinois Art Station to be something that is a ready idea for community groups, teachers and families as a place where they can come and have these creative experiences and all of these positive outcomes that come with those experiences.

Having a location close to Constitution Trail has the potential to bring new people to the IAS, Jaster added.

“This place gives us a lot of opportunities to connect with people walking along the trail and to be able to see us as they walk down this trail and hopefully be intrigued by what they see and want to walk on our grounds and enter our space.

“We’re also very close to Uptown. It’s an easy walking distance for a lot of people, so hopefully it will encourage people spending time in Uptown Normal to take a little turn in our direction.

Recently, the IAS participated in two large-scale mural projects: Washington Street in Constitution Trail and Market Street in Bloomington. More such projects may well be in the future for the Illinois Art Station, Jaster said.

“These mural projects were a wonderful time for the IAS, but also for the young people in our community. I think they do a great job of telling our story, both the Illinois Art Station and the community. I know that the young people who participated have really significant experiences.

“What’s wonderful about these public art projects is their longevity,” she said. “When people drive or walk past the mural, they can participate in one way or another. And that will continue long after the project ends.

“I hope we continue to have these truly beautiful, colorful, and larger-scale public art moments that the IAS is spearheading.”

Although the IAS is currently closed due to the pandemic, Jaster plans to have virtual programming ready for the fall and is in the process of seeking approval from the City of Normal for its new location.


Laura Jaster talks about the importance of community partners for IAS.


How could the pandemic impact long-term IAS?

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