Grantee Partner Spotlight: The Hub Arts & Cultural Center

Schuyler County high school students performing "Losing Normal"

The HUB Grantee Spotlight Featured Image

By Mark Hallett, Director of Grants Programs

Read Time 7 minutes
March 1, 2022

Founded in 2015, The Hub Arts and Cultural Center seeks to offer artistic and cultural activities relevant to the people of Schuyler and surrounding counties. The HUB received an Illinois Humanities Action Grant to produce a performance piece featuring Schuyler County high school students called, "Losing Normal." A 17-minute film, "Losing Normal" explores the effect of the pandemic on teenagers' mental health. The piece combines the words of anonymous Rushville-Industry High School students, modern dance movement, and visual storytelling. The project was carried out in partnership with Becky Jones, a dance instructor, and Rushville-Industry High School English Teacher, Tonya Woods.

A Q&A with The HUB Arts and Cultural Center

Featuring executive director Erin Eveland

Q: How do you see the arts, culture, and the humanities as being essential?

Erin Eveland: I think a big part for me is the wellbeing, the mental health part of the humanities and the arts, especially during the pandemic, which has brought that to me to the forefront. Especially the project we’re doing, the response from the community throughout the pandemic, which has been on the mental health side, keeping people busy, creating. There is nothing political about it; it’s simply nice to have an outlet for people, and that’s what “Losing Normal” was about. Not the political side of anything, but more the kids reacting to the pandemic, their thoughts and feelings, and their not having a voice. For me, the humanities give voice to the voiceless.

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Q: What is the most important thing that people should know about your work?

Erin Eveland: The HUB is really unique because of its location. We are a very rural entity. The town we’re in has 3,000 people in it. And the area we serve has 10,000, but we are serving four different counties. For us to have an arts center, and a cultural center in the middle of the cornfields is interesting and unique. There are other arts centers out there that are rural based, but they are few and far between. We don’t see many that are doing what we are doing. We’re trying to tie rural culture in with the arts and really looking at regional artists to exhibit; our exhibits are focused on nationally known people but also focused on people who bring relatable work to our community. So people in our community can see there are rural artists working. Even the current exhibit ‘Field Work’ – artist Doug Johnson is from Bloomington – but the work focuses on rural landscapes; even though Bloomington is much bigger than Rushville, you see the same kind of imagery here, and people recognize it as being Illinois.

Q: How did you arrive at doing what you do?

Erin Eveland: I was an art teacher for 13 years in Brown County, and I had every intention of retiring as a teacher, never doing anything else, and being a practicing artist. A group of us realized that as artists in the area, we were missing something. Rushville and Schuyler County are artistic communities, and culturally grounded. So we were looking at different places, and my husband and I were looking to move for our kids to have more opportunities in their lives. And we asked why can’t we have those things here – we love the community, the kids love their schools, we love our friends, so why not bring the things here. From that question, we started The HUB. So I ended up leaving education and starting my journey as an Executive Director, with that question, 'Why not here?'. 

I think a lot of people in rural areas are looking for something more, but don’t necessarily ask the question ‘Why not here?’ I think it’s important to ask that question. There has been a migration back to rural areas and I think people have started to explore the value of what small towns bring.

For me – I was a teacher for so long, and at some point, I grew and it was time for me to move on. It was scary making that jump from education to being an e.d. Being a teacher, you know where the next paycheck is coming from and have that stability. I have a Master’s in Education and so much of my educational background has helped me in my job as e.d. Especially my Master’s degree – going through statistics classes and research writing classes helped me to write grants, understand the numbers, and find reliable research. I was on the strategic planning committee at my school, so was able to bring that into my job as well. It’s been a journey, but I’m glad I’m not teaching anymore – during the pandemic, the teachers have had it really tough. I’m glad I am where I am. I can’t see myself doing anything else. But that’s how teaching was too!

Q: Who makes your work possible?

Erin Eveland: A lot of this is made possible through donors and sponsors. We have a strong support of the arts and culture in Rushville and Schuyler County, so that helps a lot. When I first started The HUB I did a needs assessment, to see if people would be willing to donate to us and to help support programs. The needs assessment told us that we would be supported. Our donors and sponsors have been really key for us. Also, grants through the Tracy Family Foundation – they have been a huge supporter of the work we’re doing. And I’ve worked with them closely – in general, they’ve given us great opportunities – not just funding but e.d. training, nonprofit, fundraising training, etc. So they’re an amazing resource to have. And we receive support from Illinois Humanities, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, United Way, and Two Rivers Arts Council. And since the pandemic, we have been able to up our grants with all of those funders and relief grants, which has helped to bring the second person to our organization. We now have two full-time employees, a big deal for us. We’re getting ready to celebrate our facilities’ fifth anniversary. Rushville has an anonymous donor and really we would not be anywhere without them. They gave us money for the building, the renovation, furnishings, etc., when we were first getting started. We got our 501c3 – they asked us for a wish list and gave us money to purchase a building and renovate it. As a result, we have no mortgage or other expenses that other places have. We would not be able to function as we do without the lump sum from them. That was amazing. So when I say Rushville and Schuyler County support the arts, the anonymous donor is a huge asset.

Erin Eveland’s Suggested Readings

There is a book for executive directors (e.d.) that deals with burnout. It is The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout. I read it before I became an e.d., and gave it to a friend who was also a new e.d. It is about work/life balance, for anyone running a nonprofit.

About The Hub Arts and Cultural Center

Founded in 2015, The Hub Arts and Cultural Center seeks to offer artistic and cultural activities relevant to the people of Schuyler and surrounding counties. The HUB's mission is to create and maintain a connection between the arts, rural culture, and their local communities through exhibitions and educational experiences.

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About the Grantee Partner Spotlight Series

Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Grants partners through our monthly Grantee Partner Spotlight. It shines a light on our grantee partners' work and allows readers to get to know them better through a Q&A with members of the organization.