Welcome to the 2023 Queen of Arts Election. Vote for your favorite candidate here by making a donation to NCI ARTworks. These donations support our programs throughout the year. The new queen will be crowned by the magnificent Mad Hatter at the Annual Mad Hatter Ball on November 17th at the Westclox Event Center!
We hope you will be there to share the evening with us. We will be honoring eight outstanding arts students from high schools throughout our region and, amidst all of the other fun of the evening, you will see them perform and show their artwork. Tickets are $45 and there are a limited number so buy yours HERE today!
Each of the Queen candidates below is committed to the community and to fostering the arts in all of its forms throughout the Illinois Valley. Take a minute and dig deep in your pocketbook to help them help NCI ARTworks continue to bring outstanding music and visual art programming to the tri-county area and facilitate the creation of amazing Big Art Installations like the Mendota Union Depot mural, the Seneca "Find Your Connection" mural, the Streator "Heritage Park" mural, and many more to come!
Stephanie Jo Thompson
I grew up around music, playing in my school band and listening to dramatic classical orchestras. I recently started a few new hobbies such as creative scrapbooking and photography. I would love to see NCI artworks expand, and have everyone get the same chance and experience I did growing up. Using NCI artworks as a great outlet to express your best creative self, making this a great community to live and work.
Julia Mautino Messina
I have always loved art and literature and music--all of the beautiful things that enrich peoples' lives, so it is my great pleasure and honor to be able to share these things with the community I grew up in. As the Executive Director of NCI ARTworks, I am constantly surrounded by creative people and beautiful or thought-provoking art. It makes me incredibly happy to be able to showcase local, regional, and national talent to the residents and students in the Illinois Valley. Whether it is facilitating major public art installations like the Ray Paseka murals in Cherry, Mendota, Streator, and Seneca or the Susan Burton mosaics in Princeton, or hosting monthly art exhibitions at the ARTworks Gallery in the Westclox building the 2nd Friday of each month and providing world-class music programs to Illinois Valley residents and schools, every single ounce of skill and expense necessary to provide the Illinois Valley with top-level arts and culture is worth it--and I am asking for you to support the arts in the Illinois Valley by donating to our Queen of the Arts campaign. Vote for one of us or all of us--the return on investment of your donation is a thriving arts culture in the Illinois Valley.
Julie Jenkins was born and raised in rural Ottawa, Illinois. She studied art through high school, and then went on to IVCC for her A.A. in Art. Julie continued her education at SIU in
Carbondale, where she received a B.S. in Art Education. In December 2021, she completed her M.A. in Art Education from Eastern Illinois University. Currently, she resides in Peru, Illinois with her husband. She is teaching high school art at LaSalle-Peru Township High School in LaSalle, Illinois. She earned the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education Fine Arts Educator Award for 2013.
Julie is the co-founder NCI ARTworks. She is member of the Illinois Art Education Association and National Art Education Association. Her work has been exhibited at the former Collins and Co. Studio and Gallery, the Prairie Arts Center in Princeton, Illinois, Music Suite 408 Paintbox Gallery in Peru, Illinois and several local restaurant galleries. Julie was also a featured artist in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Spirit magazine.
Julie’s body of work is comprised of an ongoing study of nature, music, and urban areas. Her primary media is painting with an additional focus in photography. She bases her paintings
primarily off of her photographs taken on various travel experiences. Julie advocates for the arts and encourages her students to express themselves through art.
I grew up surrounded by art. All kinds of art. My mother loved opera and classical music, and that was always playing in our home. She took us to the opera and ballet and symphony often. She loved musicals, too, and paintings and books…well, you get the idea. I was very fortunate to have that in my life. That’s why I believe in and support NCI Artworks. NCI Artworks brings art into our communities, into our schools, and into lives that otherwise may not be exposed to it. I believe art is oxygen for our souls and without it, we cannot thrive.
My name is Madeline Anke and I am honored to be considered as a candidate for the Queen of the Arts.The Arts have always been important to me. Some of my first ever memories include the joy I got from drawing on pieces of construction paper with my dad. Ever since then, I have been hooked on the feeling of creating something. Growing up in the Illinois Valley, there were not a lot of opportunities for upcoming artists. To me, my success as an artist was so tied to leaving the area and making something of myself. It was not until the pandemic that I had a change of heart. I was working up near Chicago in a fabrication studio when the pandemic hit and ultimately had to come back home. At the time, I felt like I had failed as an artist and it was very difficult for me. It was not until I started becoming involved with NCIArtworks and community projects/murals with artist Ray Paseka that I had a change of heart. I worked with members of the community whose goal it was to take an old area that was not getting much love and bring it back to life. Through something as simple as putting a large mural up, we have been able to see towns like Mendota, Streator, Seneca, etc. come to life a bit more. Hearing what some of these murals meant to members of the community and the joy even outsiders have gotten from these pieces has made me realize how important the arts are to communities like this.
I’ve also been able to work with the youth and teach classes which was another experience that opened my mind up to how important it is to invest in the arts in the area. Seeing how the younger people felt when art was making sense to them or the pride they felt when they would create something they did not realize they had the ability to make me change my views on what success in the arts meant and what it could mean for the future. When I was a child, these were the sort of things that were lacking here. I felt I would not be able to succeed here because there was nothing going on for the arts. It does not have to be that way and over the past few years, NCIArtworks and many other local artists have been proving it.
Through supporting non profit arts agencies like NCIArtworks, we are making it so the future generations don’t feel they need to leave to be successful. We live in a beautiful place and there are so many hidden gems that can be so inspiring to artists. With the right people, I truly believe that the Illinois Valley can become so much more of an art community where even artists from outside the area are drawn in. Whether you vote for me or any of the other more than qualified candidates, investing in the arts is one of the best things you can do for the community and I am very grateful to be able to be involved in such a positive cause.