‘Dole Man’ to the Rescue for Local Art Scene

Forced to shut down because of COVID-19, arts organizations across the region are hurting. A new superhero at Crystal Lake’s Dole Mansion is raising the alarm.

What’s that in the sky and flying down Route 14? It’s not a bird or a plane. It’s Dole Man, and he’s on a mission to keep the arts alive in Crystal Lake and its Dole Mansion, 401 Country Club Dr.

Dole Man is the creation of cartoonist Matt Hansel, who’s also an instructor at McHenry County College and has worked on many memorable characters, including Underdog. Like many in the community, he’s pitching in to help preserve The Dole and its many arts-related activities. Due to COVID-19, all programming has been suspended, from 4th Fridays Art Events and children’s workshops to live music performances, a summertime festival and fundraiser events.

The financial sting is forcing a deep soul searching as the team considers how to continue until larger public events resume. That may take into 2021 or beyond, says co-executive director Nancy Merkling. Most pressing is the need to preserve The Dole’s aging facilities.

“It’s so tough because earlier this year we had a sustainable, growing and evolving plan of programs and events here at The Dole,” Merkling says. “We were going to launch a new educational program, as well. There were some really awesome things we were going to continue to build and plug into our community.”

For now, financial assistance of any kind is appreciated, from sponsorships and small donations to angel investments.

Artist Hansel donated his drawings. A motorcycle-riding artist is dressing like Dole Man and hitting the streets. Fred Kaiser, owner of Think Ink, is printing Dole Man T-shirts, with half of the $20 cost returning to The Dole.

Meanwhile, Merkling is drumming up interest in vacant artist studios, which can be rented by the week or month. They offer a creative change of scenery for home-bound students, she says.

The Dole also continues with its $20 for 2020 campaign, encouraging anyone who’s able to donate $20 or more. Visit thedole.org to begin.

“The best thing is to go online and donate, and then share with your friends,” says Merkling. “One person donating is one thing, but now if nine of your friends are donating, we’re looking at true community support.”

How to Be an Arts Superhero

Arts organizations across our region are struggling to stay afloat as they manage prolonged closures and seasons that are either cancelled or dramatically shortened. Like The Dole, these organizations appreciate every dollar of support, including single donations and ticket purchases. Here are a few ways to support our local nonprofit arts groups.

Raue Center for the Arts, Crystal Lake
Purchase a yearlong RaueNOW membership and receive special access to virtual events and limited-capacity in-person performances.

Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Elgin
Donations and sponsorships are always appreciated. A unique performance at Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch in Pingree Grove was recorded in September and is available digitally through Oct. 23. The regular season is scheduled to resume in January.

Paramount Theatre, Aurora
The theater’s Broadway Series has been rescheduled for 2021-22 and all other performances are on hold. Donations can be made online at paramountaurora.com.

Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Arlington Heights
The theater’s main stage season and other events are on hold until at least 2021. Make a donation, purchase tickets or buy a gift certificate at metropolisarts.com.

Prairie Center for the Arts, Schaumburg
All events are on hold. Donate at prairiecenter.org.