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Omni Prize for the Arts to showcase 4 art genres in Ottawa

Ottawa will showcase artists from around the country this summer.

OmniArts and other sponsoring community organizations are looking to capitalize on Ottawa's culture in Omni Prize for the Arts, a juried art festival planned for Friday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 9.

"This is probably, in my mind, one of the most exciting events we've developed in the last 20 years," Mayor Robert Eschbach said at a media kickoff Friday at Tangled Roots in downtown Ottawa. "It has the most potential to grow and attract the visitors we want here. What makes the community great is not only all the old-timers and their history here, but also the new energy coming together. It's important to get the word out about Ottawa and this is a great way to do it."

The festival will showcase music, drama, visual arts and film and offer $35,000 in expert judges' prizes and peoples' choice awards. Artists locally and throughout the Midwest will be present with their art to meet and talk to those viewing displays and attending performances in multiple venues throughout the community. Art will be displayed free to the public on city streets, in restaurants, shops, parks, the riverfront and more.

"The visual arts is the cornerstone of the whole event," Omni Arts Executive Director Bill Jankowski said. "They are the hub of the arts festival."

Up to 400 visual artists will be on display in stores and businesses, as well as outside. Roxy Cinemas will host the film element with 30 short and 14 feature films playing during the course of the event.

"The idea is to bring in a nice mix of genres and have a lot of cool films," said Film Committee Chairman Tyler Amm.

Steve Caulkins, chairman of the Drama Committee, said the group is hoping to feature seven theater groups, with performances staged in the Jeremiah Joe Coffee upstairs space.

"We've already gotten out to some theater groups," he said. "We've gotten a good response. We're not limiting it to a specific genre."

Musical performances can include acoustic guitar, drums, banjo, saxophone, vocals or any instrument without electricity. Performers will be assigned an outdoor street corner in downtown locations with the performance schedule assigned via blind draw. All ages may participate but those younger than 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

"We are trying to be the top dog in Illinois," said Jankowski," No other competition utilizes all four elements, that I know of, throughout the country."

Economic Development Director Reed Wilson is heading the site committee to ask businesses to host artists.

"We are all in this together," Jankowski said. "The more people we can get into your store, the better. Three thousand to 5,000 people is not unrealistic at all. We're trying to get as many businesses as possible to bring artists inside to show their work."

In addition to OmniArts, corporate sponsors include the Robert M. Eschbach Legacy Endowment Fund, Edmund B. Thornton Foundation and the city.

"We're more than on our way," Jankowski said. "We're looking at anywhere from $70,000 to $90,000 we're trying to raise. We're halfway there already."

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