Television star Walt Willey now is part of a growing local effort to promote and enhance the performing arts in and around his hometown.
Willey, an Ottawa native and star on the former soap opera "All My Children," will be a community arts adviser for Starved Rock Country, a regional initiative to promote tourism and investment.
Starved Rock Country will be partnering with Willey, who is the co-founder and artistic director of WilleyWorld Community Productions, to help move this mission forward, according to John Newby, publisher of The Times newspaper and founder of Starved Rock Country.
“The entire Starved Rock Country concept is all about growing the overall business base, creating jobs and encouraging additional tourism and vacationers to visit the Starved Rock Country region," Newby said.
"Starved Rock Country celebrates the many local cultural and historical attractions and personalities that make up our wonderful region. The development and support of the arts are an important part of that.
“Knowing what Mr. Willey and his organization have done in and for this area, we felt that a partnership made sense."
“I’ve been a very vocal 'booster' of this area for years, and when I became aware of Starved Rock Country’s efforts in that regard, I was excited about what we might do together for the arts in Starved Rock Country,” said Willey. “John and I met several times over the past few months to explore this, and — happily — we both see how this could be a mutually beneficial relationship.”
As reported a few weeks ago, the Starved Rock Country concert series will be expanded in the future, under the name Starved Rock Country Concert & Arts Series.
"Mr. Willey will have a hand in that expansion as we explore what makes sense for this area and what will attract not only local arts enthusiasts, but also those from outside the area as well," Newby said. "We have seen great reception for several of our concerts such as Alex Boyé, Crystal Bowersox and David Cook from outside the region, and we would like to see the arts be part of this."
“Developing entertainment and arts possibilities for this area has been the purpose of WWCP from the beginning seven years ago," said Willey. "So it is particularly exciting to have Starved Rock Country as a partner in this mission."