Julia Haw: Art and Politics

Back in December, I interviewed Julia Haw, painter extraordinaire. She is one of many artists who are impacted by Governor Rauner’s plan to close the Illinois Art Museums as of July 1st. She showed her incredible series The Western Veil at the Chicago branch of the Illinois Art Museum and currently showing the series at the Lockport branch.

I asked her about how she will be impacted with this threatened closure of the Illinois Art Museums.

How has the threat of the closure of all the Illinois State Museums affected you? What will happen to your exhibition in Lockport?

Julia: The state of Illinois will not be covering the insurances to protect the artwork, starting July 1st. I am unsure at this time if this decision is temporary or the museums will have to find private protection. (Confusing since I found this on Reboot: “The Department will begin the process to suspend operations and close the five state museums to visitors. The state will continue to maintain and secure the museums to protect the artifacts and exhibits.” I don’t know how the museum plans to protect the artifacts without proper insurances, but for this particular reason all thirty works of mine currently hanging will be re-delivered to me the week of June 22nd. My show, a traveling exhibition titled The Western Veil was slated to be in the Lockport Illinois State Museum until mid August, with a party and book release July 31st. The book, to be published by Perch Press, is now on hold as well, as the museum had a private resource who was going to fund it, whom will not give funds until things are settled. I don’t know if the museums are going to close or remain open, but there is definitely a petition to sign!

As for why..... “House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their caucuses passed a budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginning July 1 that is nearly $4 billion in the hole,” said the governor’s office. (Chicago Sun Times) The democratic budget set for 2016 has been deemed “phony,” thus Rauner is making these cuts to save $400 million. “The governor has declared all-out war on the citizens of the state of Illinois because he’s peeved with the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate,” Lang said, adding: “It’s a path that’s carefully chosen to strike at the values and principles of what the majority of the members of the Legislature believe in.” (Chicago Sun Times)

On February 18th, in the 2016 Illinois Operating Budget Book, Tim Nuding, Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget states, “The morale of our citizens is low, and many Illinoisans are down on Illinois. A 2014 Gallup poll found that 1 in 4 Illinois citizens believe our state is the worst state to live in - by far the highest percentage of any other state in the country. Only 3 percent of Illinoisans said ours was the best state in which to live - the lowest of any state. About half of Illinoisans say they would leave Illinois if they could - that’s the highest percentage of any other state. United Van Lines’ 2014 National Movers Study lists Illinois as the third highest outbound state, meaning that more people are moving out of Illinois than out of 47 other states. Illinoisans have the lowest trust in their state government, with only 28 percent of respondents saying they trust their government while the national figure is almost 60 percent.” (I wonder why!!)

Please see the FULL 2016 Budget Book here. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/262704484/Fy-2016-Illinois-Operating-Budget-Book) (Notice the Illinois Arts Council on here as well. I know many artist friends spent hours applying for grants through the council only to receive a message like this:

“Dear Julia Haw,

The Illinois Arts Council Agency was not able to proceed with the review of the application you submitted for a fellowship in Visual Arts. Unfortunately, funds appropriated for the program are no longer available.On behalf of the Council and staff of the Illinois Arts Council Agency, thank you for your interest in participating in the programs and services of this State agency.


Shirley R. Madigan and Tatiana Gant”

Read here about how Rauner’s cuts will impact the state: http://wgntv.com/2015/06/02/gov-rauner-prepares-closures-spending-cuts-if-no-budget-okd/

2. With this new climate in Illinois, have you been impacted in other ways by this cut to arts funding?

As I mentioned above, the state has slowly been pulling funds from the Illinois Arts Council this year and I started noticing it when the laborious grants I worked on were responded to by a three sentence email stating the funds had run dry. I will be applying for funds elsewhere now, such as through Artadia, a non-profit that awards unrestricted amounts ranging from $5K - $20K in the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. 

Through this whole process, I am still very up in spirit. I am taking everything as it comes. I see this as an opportunity to talk about what is happening, why and how we can take a stand for ourselves and for our artists! As for the work coming down, look - I’ve created an amazing body of work, and sold over half the series to private collectors. In the meantime if the state cannot provide, or refuses to provide, we have to seek alternate means, while still making ourselves heard!

I offer simple solutions:

  • Inform ourselves.

  • Stop saying “Our hands are tied.”

  • Raise our voices. This means using constructive means, like petitions and writing, sharing information, or creating work expressing our opinions.

  • Find permanent solutions, rather than temporary ones.

  • Hold art to the highest esteem. This is our cultural foundation!

John Lustig, the director of the Lockport Illinois State Museum, and who I have been working with for the past two years has met with the mayor of Lockport just this week. The mayor is a fan of my work and says “Julia still has her date of July 31st. The band is booked.” I don’t know what this means just yet since the work is coming down... but this could be an opportunity for something different, something right in the vein of what I’ve always done, something a bit wild.... So YES - there is still a party date on July 31st. And I really hope to see you there..... TBD!!!!!!


Thank you Julia for your critical perspective on this troubling threat to cultural institutions in Illinois. So please consider signing the petition against the closure of the Illinois State Museums.

Sign it here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/governor-rauner-dont
Check out Julia Haw’s work (including her exhibition threatened by the closure) here: http://www.juliahaw.com/

The Western Veil