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Our July Artist of the month is Ellen Ransom of Evanston. Ransom is a portrait artist whose goal is to show African Americans around the world that they too can be portayed in art.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing something! I was the youngest of four children and the only girl being raised alone as my brothers remained in Alabama with my grandmother and their father. I didn’t have much company or playmates and therefore found ways to entertain myself by drawing everything in sight. Upon becoming a teenager, my oldest brother joined my mother and me, but still, as a baby sister, there were not a lot of opportunities for my brother and I to interact together, besides art. 

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U of I campusWith the University of Illinois’ world-renowned Science and Engineering departments, it’s no surprise that six U of I researchers have received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers this year. The award is the highest honor the U.S. government can bestow upon young professionals at the beginning of their independent research careers.

This year’s winners include mechanical engineering and science professors Gaurav Bahl and Kelly Stephani, materials science and engineering professor Pinshane Huang, chemistry professor Prashant Jain, molecular and integrative physiology professor Daniel Llano, and physics professor Julia “Jessie” Shelton.

These young scientists and engineers are eligible to receive a research grant for up to five years, allowing them to further their studies in support of critical government missions. The federal agencies involved include the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the National Science Foundation.

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tom headshotTom Heflin of Rockford is our June Artist of The Month. Hieflin began his career as an artist in the spring of 1970. He often opens his home to visitors who can come and view his latest work.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start?

With a wife and five children I was working in a sign company and doing my art at night and weekends waiting for the proper time when I could launch my career as a fine artist. It took 16 long years but I reached a point when I was 33 years old and decided it was now or never. I found an abandoned farm house on a dead end road 10 miles from the little city of Freeport, Illinois. The owner gave me permission to use it and wouldn’t charge me rent because it had no indoor plumbing and only a kitchen wood stove for heat. So with my hopes and dreams I moved into this old haunted place and started my career as an artist in the spring of 1970.

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­IllinoisIllinois is one of the most fun states in the nation according to new rankings released by the consumer finance site WalletHub.

Illinois checked in at number 11 on the site’s Most Fun States in America list, which ranks states according to more than two dozen metrics of fun.

“There are certain states where fun is not just an option but also a way of life,” the site said. “These states offer such a variety of activities that everyone will be able to find something that excites them.”

Beyond ranking 11th overall, the Land of Lincoln was rated 12th in recreation and entertainment and 3rd when it comes to nightlife.

It also ranked 5th among states with the most restaurants per capita, 3rd for most performing arts theaters per capita and 5th in terms of state and local spending on parks and recreation per capita.

Among Midwest states, Illinois ranked second behind only Minnesota.

For full rankings and more information on the methodology by which the states were rated click here.

artistAdrienne Pike Adelphia is our May Artist of the Month from Ottawa. She is inspired by artist like Homer Winslow, Georgia O’Keefe and Andy Evenson.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start?

I’ve been an artist all of my life. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember.

Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, would you tell us about it?

I’m not sure there that there was a specific moment. But, I do remember an assignment in first or second grade. We had to cut out a little figure and dress it as the profession we wanted to go into. My figure had a paint smock and a palette…

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