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Local News

Joliet museum, Rialto look toward future funding

The Joliet Area Historical Museum looks for revenue from prison tours like this one in August 2018 to help reduce dependency on a city subsidy for museum operations.
The Joliet Area Historical Museum looks for revenue from prison tours like this one in August 2018 to help reduce dependency on a city subsidy for museum operations.

The Joliet Area Historical Museum hopes over time to generate revenue from the Old Joliet Prison to offset its need for city funding, Executive Director Greg Peerbolte told the Joliet City Council last week.

The museum and Rialto Square Theatre both depend on annual city subsidies to fund operations: $275,000 at the museum and $500,000 at the Rialto.

The Rialto recently hired a new development director with a track record of fundraising at the Paramount Theater in Aurora.

Peerbolte gave a financial report to the City Council last week, including discussion on plans to reduce the museum’s need for city subsidies.

“Long term, the vision is for the prison to reduce our dependency on these funds,” Peerbolte said.

The museum and city are partners in the prison project. The the city is leasing the former Joliet Correctional Center from the state in a five-year arrangement that started at the beginning of 2018.

The museum last year began conducting tours and organizing other activities at the prison. Revenues from prison tours help supplement the museum budget.

This is the first year the museum has developed a budget that includes prison activities, Peerbolte said.

The museum currently is operating at a $42,000 deficit largely because of deferred maintenance at the building being addressed this year, he said.

At the Rialto

The Rialto Square Theatre recently hired Kathleen Arko as its new director of development.

Arko raised $18 million for the Paramount during her 17-year tenure there and secured the largest grant in the Paramount’s history at $2.5 million, Rialto Executive Director Val Devine told the Rialto board when introducing Arko last month.

Devine, who formerly worked at the Paramount, had recruited Arko for the Joliet theater.

“I think it’s great to have a new challenge,” Arko told The Herald-News.

Arko said the “climate has been much improved” at the Rialto, which should help fundraising.

But, she said, “It takes time. Nobody wants to walk in and raise a million more than I do. But I need to build relationships.”

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