McLean County news briefs

Illinois Art Station’s Communication Specialist Cassie McNeill and Teaching Artist Luke Lowers with Illinois Art Station’s Mobile Art Center in front of the proposed future location of IAS. (Photo courtesy of Town of Normal)


Money Smart Week programs help with personal finance


Money Smart Week (MSW) is a national campaign with a weeklong schedule of events March 30-April 6 to help consumers manage their financial lives.

MSW events cover many personal finance topics such as managing credit, understanding your credit score and report, setting financial goals, housing, saving, estate planning, retirement, and others.

University of Illinois Extension consumer economic educators are active partners with Money Smart Week. They offer events or workshops throughout Illinois.

Local libraries will be hosting free events.


Tuesday, April 2, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. – Bloomington Public Library, 205 E Olive St.

Demystifying our spending behaviors: “Many of us understand and agree that we need to save more and spend less. We realize that having a spending plan (aka budget) and emergency savings helps get us closer toward financial freedom and financial resilience, but why is it so hard to engage in these behaviors?

This money Smart week event explores developing effective spending plans and strategies to reduce spending (in-store and online).” Want to attend? RSVP online at

Wednesday, April 3 | 10 – 11 a. m. – Normal Public Library, 206 W. College Ave.

Identity Theft, Data Breach, and Credit Reports“Data breaches and identity theft have become very prevalent. Cybercriminals and other scammers continue to develop sophisticated software and techniques to commit fraud. Regardless of demographic characteristics such as educational level, marital status, or income, anyone can become targets and experience financial exploitation.” Want to attend? RSVP online at

To learn more about Money Smart Week, visit the website at For more information about these local programs, contact Camaya: University of Illinois Extension, Consumer Economics educator at or 309-663-8306


IDOT meeting on Route 9 project scheduled

The Illinois Department of Transportation recently announced a public meeting has been scheduled for Saturday, Tuesday, April 2 from 4 to 8 p.m. the purpose of discussing the improvement of IL Rt. 9. The meeting will be held at Bloomington High School,

1202 E. Locust St.

The project involves  from the intersection of Market Street and Martin Luther King Drive east to the intersection of East Empire Street and Carnahan Drive. All persons interested in this project are invited to attend the meeting.

For more information, visit


Foundation proposes $2 Million art station in Uptown

Illinois Art Station’s Communication Specialist Cassie McNeill and Teaching Artist Luke Lowers with

The Town of Normal is planning to begin negotiations with a nonprofit foundation to move the visual arts center the foundation supports from temporary headquarters on the Illinois State University campus to a new home in Uptown Normal.

The Illinois Art Station Foundation, whose mission is to provide “all children, youth, and their families with transformative learning through hands-on experiences in the visual arts,” responded to the Town’s recent request seeking a tenant for the unfinished ground floor of the College Avenue Parking Deck.

The proposal would use private funds to complete the project estimated to cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.

“We believe the site and location will enable IAS to fully realize its mission, vision and commitments,” said Laura Berk, distinguished professor of psychology emerita at Illinois State. Berk provided the vision and the gift to the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Fine Arts that led to the founding of the Illinois Art Station in 2016.

She was inspired by similar programs at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York and the Bronzeville Children’s Museum on Chicago’s South Side. She has since established the Illinois Art Station Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the Illinois Art Station and has led the search for a permanent home.

IAS began its first year of arts education programs and community outreach in 2018 with two full-time staff working with a mobile art station/vehicle and using temporary space in Williams Hall.

It has partnered with local groups and libraries to conduct free arts workshops mainly for underserved populations, including at local libraries, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Western Avenue Community Center.

Last summer, IAS led an effort to paint a mural along the Constitution Trail underpass below Washington Street in Bloomington.

“We are excited to see what Dr. Berk and the Illinois Art Station will bring to Uptown Normal,” said Mayor Chris Koos. “They have already shown a collaborative spirit that benefits the larger community, and this kind of diverse economic development is what the Uptown plan called for. We look forward to seeing how it will complement existing and future projects.”

According to the proposal, the Illinois Art Station would complete construction by March 2020.


Kick off spring with A Day in the Garden Patch

University of Illinois Extension Livingston County Master Gardeners would like to welcome spring after a long winter with “A Day in the Garden Patch from 9 a.m. to Noon on Saturday, April 6 in Pontiac.

A Day in the Garden Patch is all about inspiring, educating and encouraging gardeners, whether they have a balcony and a sunny window or an acre to grow. This educational event is for all who love plants and want to discover new gardening hacks and tips while having fun.

The morning will kick off with Kelsay Shaw from Possibility Place Nursery in Monee. Kelsay’s presentation, entitled Ornamental to Natives will cover why natives not only brighten home landscapes, but prove beneficial to birds, butterflies, and the environment.

Kelsay will share before and after pictures of plantings gone from regular ornamental to native-based landscaping. He also will discuss native plant benefits, and how to select the right plants.

Bob Streitmatter, from Luthy Botanical Garden in Peoria, will inspire to breathe new life into your garden with a little design, planting, accessorizing, and maintenance. While some of his tips are long-term projects, others can be implemented within a few hours.

Finally, a container making party will end the morning where participants will get to design and make their very own kitchen herb garden in a colander to take home. Livingston County Master Gardeners will provide great tips on growing and using herbs all summer long.

Space is very limited. A $20 registration fee will include morning refreshments, two garden-themed presentations, and one hands-on workshop, where you will leave with your very own container of kitchen herb gardens.

The program will be hosted at the University of Illinois Extension Livingston County office, 1412 South Locust St., Pontiac. To register, visit or the Livingston County Extension Office at 815-842-1776.


Free tax preparation assistance available

Low-to-moderate income families and senior citizens needing assistance filing their 2018 income taxes can receive free help through several trusted programs across the State of Illinois.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and AARP Tax-Aide programs are providing free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in over 300 locations statewide.

“With April 15 just around the corner, it is important for Illinois taxpayers to know that filing assistance is available,” said David Harris, Illinois Department of Revenue acting director.  “Volunteers at these locations are certified by the IRS and ready to assist qualified individuals in filing their state and federal tax returns accurately and on time.”

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offer free tax help for individuals making $55,000 or less, persons with disabilities, limited English speaking taxpayers and individuals 60 years of age or older.

AARP’s Foundation Tax-Aide program focuses on helping low-to-moderate income individuals, with special attention to those over 50 years of age. An AARP membership is not required.

“I want to thank the Illinois Department of Revenue, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), and AARP Tax-Aide programs for providing this much-needed service to older adults across the state that just need help,” said Paula Basta, acting director of IDA.

Taxpayers can search for a free tax preparation location closest to them by visiting the Illinois Department of Revenue’s website

Get the latest news and updates from the Illinois Department on Aging by following the department on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, or by calling the Senior HelpLine at (800) 252-8966.