Hundreds of artists and administrators met last week to discuss the state of the arts in Illinois.
Politics dominated the discussion, with a focus on ever-shrinking budgets for many arts groups, including the Illinois Arts Council Agency - the state department that oversees government spending on the arts.
Funding for the council has diminished from about $20 million dollars in 2007 to less than $9 million in 2012.
Ra Joy heads Arts Alliance Illinois - the state's largest such advocacy and membership group:
"Despite these very challenging circumstances, artists and creative enterprises can be part of the solution," he said.
As the budget impasse continues - state arts art funding could be virtually erased.
Joy says artists are essential to economic growth and making communities viable and vibrant.
"It's really about putting people first ... really about meeting people where they are," he said. "A lot of people right now on the political trail are talking about building walls. Our artists build bridges. And so this notion of putting people first is really top of mind."
Joy says while the news about state funding is dire - arts groups will find creative ways to stay afloat.
Joy spoke at a recent arts conference that took place in Evanston. Many of the speakers urged arts groups to focus on becoming more diverse.