History of DAAC

The Beginning

Decatur Area Arts Council began in 1967 when a group of individuals made up of local artists, teachers, and Millikin University staff decided to sponsor a residency and performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company. That same year Kirkland Fine Arts Center was built on the Millikin University campus and community expectations ran high for this new performance facility.

Arts education initiatives were the cornerstone of the Arts Council’s beginning and continue today with programs like the Performing Arts Series for Students, Arts in Education grants to schools, ArtsPals, and an arts lending library for teachers.

Community programming emerged in the mid-70’s through an inner-city Neighborhood Arts Program, Music Under the Stars in 1978, the beginning of the On My Own Time program in 1979, the IAC’s Re-granting Program in 1979, and sponsorship of the Central Illinois Jazz Festival in 1980. A full-time professional staff was developed in 1975.

1980 - 1993

The ‘80s saw the expansion of the Council’s role in the community as a provider of technical assistance needs to community arts organizations, increased mailings of the Arts for All newsletter, the establishment of an Artist Coalition committee in 1987, and in 1990, the beginning of a new community arts festival, First Night Decatur, which lasted two years.

In 1988, the Council moved its offices from the Millikin campus to the Rock Springs Environmental Center. In 1992, the Decatur Area Arts Council contracted with the Wolf Organization of Cambridge, MA, to develop a Community Cultural Plan for the city of Decatur. Seven different task forces made key recommendations based on the community plan. Significant progress was made in the areas of moving to a more visible and accessible location, marketing, coordination & dissemination of community arts information, arts education, and technical assistance.

1994 - 1999

In 1994 the board rewrote and approved a new mission and goal statement which reflects their acceptance of responsibility to become more of a facilitator and catalyst for the arts in our service area. Planning processes led to a vision for DAAC as “a lively, active Arts Center in a highly visible downtown Decatur site, with emphasis on Arts Education and the Arts Incubator concept to best serve the artists, arts organizations and community”.

In early 1995 the board acquired the assets of Arts by Heart, formerly Project HEART, an arts service organization which trains teachers in aesthetic education. This bolstered the arts education arm of the Decatur Area Arts Council, complementing arts education in the schools with an extensive arts resources lending library, as well as training community professionals and volunteers who work with youth outside the schools. To establish a downtown presence, DAAC remodeled and moved into a vacant retail space next to the Lincoln Square Theatre.

A 1999 Board retreat resulted in a new long range plan focusing on developing a future Community Arts Center. The Council added an information-rich website to its communication tool kit.

2000 - Today

In 2000, after 8 years of planning and background work, the Arts Council bought an empty 14,000 sq. ft. 100-year-old building in downtown Decatur. It launched a successful $2 million Capital Campaign for an Arts Center and an endowment. July 5, 2004, the Decatur Area Arts Council moved into the now completed Madden Arts Center at 125 North Water Street.

Ten year later, a successful capital campaign raised $375,000 to both renovate the Arts Center and boost the endowment fund. Arts education programming continues to be the cornerstone of the Decatur Area Arts Council’s mission.

Back to Top