Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame unveils group of six inductees

Chronicle Media



The founder of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus is among six new inductees into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame.

The late Margaret Hillis, who founded the chorus in 1956 and spent 37 years as conductor, joins

a journalist and author plus four representatives of visual arts who will be saluted at an April banquet in Bartlett.

Members of the eighth class of inductees will also be honored with plaques at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.

Joining Hillis will be author Philip Burnham, originally from Batavia, plus artists Guy J. Bellaver of St. Charles, Joseph Hernandez of Aurora, Sandro Miller of Elgin and Roy J. Solfisburg III of Aurora.

New classes have been inducted every two years since the Hall was founded in 2001.

The Hall was founded to give public recognition to artists associated with the Fox Valley by birth, education, residence, or service who have achieved national or international acclaim.

The group will be inducted as part of an April 14 banquet at Villa Olivia Country Club.

Following are profiles of each new member:

Guy J. Bellaver

Guy J. Bellaver

Guy J. Bellaver, visual arts/sculptor


A resident of St. Charles, Believer became a full-time sculptor in 1975. He has obtained national recognition for many of his works of art in addition to having them in private collections around the country. Guy’s monumental works include major public art and liturgical projects in Geneva, Elgin and St. Charles, IL, Latrobe, PA and Boston, MA.


His sculptures appear in business, university and municipal collections around the country, including the corporation collection of H.J. Heinz, Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Museum, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Hiram College.


In the early days of his career, he was self-taught. He then studied at Carnegie Mellon University in PA, Northern Illinois University and The School of the Art Institute in Chicago.


Bellaver is active in his community. He currently sits on the Board of the St. Charles Arts Council and is the Past and Founding Board Member of the St. Charles Visitor Cultural Commission.

View his entire portfolio of work on his web site –



Philip Burnham

Philip Burnham

Philip Burnham, literary arts



Born in Elgin, raised in Batavia by his father, President of Marshall Fields and his mother, Ruth, along with his siblings, now resides in Washington, D.C. Burnham has taught college-level writing, history and literature at the University of New Mexico, the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), Johns Hopkins University and as a Fulbright Fellow at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition at George Mason University in Virginia.


He began his teaching career on an Indian reservation. This experience and his research in the Dakotas has given him a great understanding and relationship with the American tribes, which he truly enjoys sharing via his writings.


His first full-length book was How the Other Half Lived: A People’s Guide to American Historic Sites revealing the life of minority groups in America. His work, Song of Dewey Beard: Last Survivor of the Little Bighorn is a biography of a Lokota who witnesses the Battle of Little Bighorn and survived the Wounded Knee Massacre.


Burnham returns to the Fox Valley area for many events, including book signings, book discussions, and most recently the Batavia Public Library’s monthly book program, Books Between Bites to discuss his new biography followed by a book signing at Town House Books in St. Charles.


Joseph Hernandez

Joseph Hernandez

Joseph Hernandez

Visual arts/arts educator


A life-long Auroran, graduate of Marmion Military Academy and Northern Illinois University is known for his tremendous talent and willingness to share his skill with students from our community and throughout the world.


Associate Professor Emeritus of Art/Ceramics/Drawing and Design at Waubonsee Community College, Hernandez has been a member of many Fox Valley/Kane County community organizations. He has international exposure through exhibits and seminars and his work has been featured in numerous one-man, two-person and group shows for over fifty years in the regional, national and international level.

Some of his international accomplishments have included his participation in the Korean-American Clay Camps, China, Europe and South America.
Hernandez is truly someone who exemplifies an art educator/artist who has given back to his community and art education. Some of the more significant awards and recognitions he has received have included: NISOD Excellence in Teaching Award; Illinois Community College Trustees Association Faculty of the year Award; Waubonsee Community College Teacher of the Year Award; the Hispanic Pioneer Teachers Award and many more.


He continues to be a volunteer at schools, demonstrating his mastery of Raku ware – a type of Japanese pottery traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies. It is hand shaped, fired at low temperatures, removed from the kiln and allowed to cool in the open air.


Dr. Margaret Hillis

Dr. Margaret Hillis

Dr. Margaret Hillis



Hillis is truly an amazingly accomplished musician who has reached musical heights with her superb Chicago Symphony chorus, which she was invited to start by Conductor Fritz Reiner in 1956. During her 37-year tenure as Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus, which she founded, the Chorus made 45 recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – 9 of those were given Grammy Awards.


In 1971, she was invited to conduct the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. Under her direction the Elgin Symphony Orchestra matured from a volunteer orchestra to one that was fully professional.


Her legacy and achievement as director, teacher and conductor mark her as a gem in the field of performing arts. The contributions made by Hillis to the Fox Valley cultural community are permanently embedded in the character and mission of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. It was under her direction and tutelage that ESO received outstanding achievements, accolades and even rocketed Fox Valley to the world stage. Under her guidance, ESO was recognized as the Illinois Orchestra of the year three times.


Hillis studied at Indiana University, where she received her undergraduate education in music. She then continued studies at the Juilliard School, studying choral conducting under Robert Shaw and Julius Herford. After graduation, Hillis had numerous conducting positions in New York. Some of these positions were: teaching conducting at the Juilliard School, Choral Director of the New York City Opera Company and the Director of the New York Concert Choir. She focused her energies and gained fame as an innovative creative director and conductor and became the first woman to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a subscription concert in 1957.


Hillis has received numerous honorary doctorates, appointments to the National Council of the Arts; the Governor’s Award from Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences; a 1994 Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Indiana University and the Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral excellence established by the Chorus of America.


Hillis was a unique woman of her time and a woman who broke boundaries. The YMCA of Elgin created an award to honor her for her contributions to the arts in the Fox Valley area and this award, in her name, is given at the Annual Leader Luncheon to an individual with unique contributions to the arts in the Fox Valley area.


Sandro Miller

Sandro Miller

Sandro Miller

Visual arts/photographer/director


Miller was born in Elgin in 1958 and is an alumnus of Elgin Community College. He became interested in photography at the age of sixteen after seeing the work of Irving Penn and has devoted his life to creating expressive images.


Miller has photographed many national advertising campaigns, been published for his editorial work in many magazines and has received international awards. He contributes his talents to community and national charitable organizations.


Miller has won the Lucie Award, honoring his great achievements in photography and he is also an accomplished, and award winning, film maker.


He continues to support Elgin Community College through donated works of art and has worked with several students in the area in addition to offering lectures and showing of his work in the Fox Valley Area. Miller practices an “open door policy” at his studio, inviting students and aspiring photographers and artists to sit in on photo shoots to learn the process and ask questions.


He believes that his childhood and upbringing in the Fox Valley area is a huge reason for his success. He believes he has a role as a leader to influence many and to teach many that Fox Valley provides the education, the influences and the greatest leaders for all of us to achieve our highest potential.


Roy J. Solifsburg III

Roy J. Solifsburg III

Roy J. Solifsburg III
Visual arts / architecture


Sofisburg grew up in Aurora and graduated from West Aurora High School. He then attended the University of Munich, Germany and Williams College in Massachusetts where he received a degree in Art History. It was at the University of Pennsylvania that he received his Master’s degree in Architecture.


He joined the prestigious firm of Holabird and Root in Chicago and eventually became the Senior Managing Partner/Designer Partner. In 1982, Holabird and Root was given the American Institute of Architect’s “National Firm of the Year Award” for distinguished architecture. This award was bestowed to the firm under Solfisburg’s guidance, design and management of the firm.


He became best known for his performing arts centers, corporate buildings, hospital architecture and later his residential designs. He was instrumental in designing the Chicago Cultural Center, DePauw University Performing Arts Center in Indiana and Northwestern University’s sports arena now known as Welsh-Ryan Arena.


Solfisburg received numerous awards and accolades in the area of residential design as well. A notable project here in Illinois is his house in Wilmette, which was featured in the Chicago Tribune for its unusual design. Architectural Digest brought worldwide attention to several of the homes he designed in Florida, where he currently resides.


Solfisburg was a lecturer on the Prairie School of Design and Domestic Architecture styles, which former Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame Inductee, George Grant Elmslie was a strong proponent. He continues to maintain a strong interest in the fine arts, especially art created on paper, such as etchings, silk screens and watercolors.






— Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame unveils group of six inductees —