Field of Dreams — Oswego’s Arranmore Center for the Arts

April 2012 View more

Photo by Lisa Sharpe, courtesy of Arranmore Center for the Arts

The 1989 film Field of Dreams recounts the story of a farmer, hearing voices, who interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his fields. Voices aside, the popular film offers an unavoidable comparison to Shannon Greene Robb’s dream to build a fine-arts center amid 300 rural acres at the intersection of DuPage, Will, Kane, and Kendall Counties: Arranmore Center for the Arts.

What’s in a Name?

Árainn Mhór (anglicized as Arranmore) is a tiny island that lies off Ireland’s County Donegal—homeland of Greene Robb’s great grandmother Bridget McCauley. Greene Robb’s vision for Arranmore Center for the Arts is deeply rooted in both family and community: The Oswego land on which she hopes to build is owned by her father, John Greene, who founded john greene Realtor in 1976. Arranmore Farms is dotted with polo fields, horse barns, and other outbuildings; 25 acres of this land was donated to serve the mission of supporting and promoting a multi-faceted arts experience in Chicago’s western suburbs.

The pinnacle of this mission is Greene Robb’s vision to build performance space for students—as well as aspiring and established artists—in music, theater, dance, and the visual arts. “At this point, it’s more of a concept—to bring arts to the western suburbs,” says Greene Robb. “Since we don’t have a facility, we’re trying to live and communicate the mission in a lot of local, grassroots ways.”

Since founding Arranmore in 2006, Greene Robb has been actively pursuing partnerships with community organizations, professional artists, and school districts. The Downtown Naperville Alliance has partnered with Arranmore for its Ringin’ in the New Year event for the past two years. Greene Robb jokes, “We’re the ones who provide merriment around the town.” Featured artists have included harp players, face painters, magicians, caricature artists, and dancers.

In the spring of 2011 Arranmore sponsored a collaborative education program with Oswego Community Unit School District 308 called InspirEd. The free after-school program enabled students to collaborate and perform with professional artists in 14 workshops over the course of three months, culminating with a show to celebrate the district’s 50th anniversary.

Greene Robb knows every student has artistic talent: “The goal of InspirEd is to tap into that inspiration—how can we touch these kids to connect with their passion and express it through the arts?”

If You Build It . . . Will They Come?

Greene Robb’s current focus is on a professional feasibility study—a strong step in the direction of designing and constructing an arts facility—to assess the demographics in the area to support indoor/outdoor arts facilities, including classrooms, an outdoor concert arena, and an indoor performing arts facility. Results of the study will provide recommendations on anticipated attendance and rental usage of arts facilities, including size, scope, and location. The feasibility study was started in February by Connecticut-based AMS Planning and Research, a top arts consultant firm, and will be completed in June. To offset costs of the study, Arranmore will host a fundraiser at the Naperville Sullivan’s Steakhouse this month (see box at left).

Meanwhile, Arranmore is readying for Cabernet Cabaret, its series of open-air musical events that take place on the expansive lawn of Arranmore Farm. Each concert features distinctive themes and an eclectic mix of musical selections. Tickets will be available May 1 for the “The First Fling” concert on June 9, “Dancing in the Dark” will be held July 14, and “Tunes with a Twist” will be offered September 7.