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About The Sun Foundation

About Us

Founded in 1973 by educators and artists Joan Root and Robert Ericksen, the Sun Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that provides imaginative and vibrant art and environmental science programming in rural Washburn, Illinois.

Mission and Vision

Our mission is to strengthen and advance the arts and environmental sciences in our community by providing innovative, high-quality programs, services, publications, research, regranting financial support, and cooperative efforts for the general public, underserved groups, schools, artists, and arts organizations.

The Sun Foundation is organized exclusively for education, scientific, and charitable purposes. Specifically, the Foundation researches, designs, produces, and disseminates educational materials that advance and develop integrative and interdisciplinary studies between artists and scientists and the understanding thereof, to enable humankind to live in harmony with nature, by securing a quality environment for all life, thereby enriching the human condition.

Since 1973, the Sun Foundation has nourished new talents for the arts and environmental sciences in three generations of young stewards for planet Earth.


During the late 1960s, many segments of our community did not have access to the arts because of economics, geographical location, or lack of exposure. Artists had limited access to schools, community centers, other artists and professionals working in other disciplines. The arts were not acknowledged as part of elementary and secondary curriculum; most elementary schools did not have an art curriculum or an art teacher. There was a need for an organizational structure to foster new talents and audiences for the arts and integrate the arts into other disciplines. There was also a need to foster cooperation between, artists, arts groups, businesses, schools and the community for joint efforts and sharing of resources.

Joan and Bob, Our Founders

As multidisciplinary artists, teachers, and environmentalists, Bob and Joan Ericksen founded the Sun Foundation as a way to better connect artists, environmental scientists, and their community. For decades, they’ve worked to overcome economic, political, and geographic barriers to foster new talents in students and advance integrative work in the arts and sciences. Their efforts have formed the welcoming and inspiring community that is the Sun Foundation.

Learn more about our founders →


Bob and Joan are truly incredible people that donate their time and efforts to educating the community's children year after year.

– Shae B.


The Sun Foundation Art and Nature Center

The Sun Foundation Art and Nature Center is located in the upper Illinois River Valley. The Sun Foundation owns no land or buildings. Its facility use is donated by Joan and Bob Ericksen, founding directors; Blue Heron Farm; the Robert and Joan Sloan Family; and  Dale and Teri Belcher. Location details →

The land and facility is open to the public for scheduled programs and events only. Plan an event →

The Sun Foundation Community

To date the work of the Foundation has touched the lives of over 5.9 million people through programs, artists residencies, teacher training, fine art curriculum development for elementary schools, performances, exhibits, conferences, lectures, artist symposiums, master classes, summer arts programs, after school art programs, technical assistance, publications, regranting, and public broadcasting.

  • Over 17,500 artists and scientists have been contracted

  • $2.2 million in state and federal grants awarded from the IAC, NEA and state board of education

  • $7.7 million in funds raised through public contributions and grants and expended to improve the quality of education, and returned to the economy of our community

  • Over $468,000 has been awarded area artists, art groups, and schools in Marshall, Putnam, LaSalle and Bureau counties through the Community Arts Access Grants program, funded through a matching grant from the IAC, a state agency

  • The Sun Foundation newspaper (Sun Journal) reaches 30,000 homes and businesses, promoting the arts, artists, arts organizations, environmental sciences, and other organizations programs and services

Awards and Recognition

The Sun Foundation programs have been recognized through the following awards:

  • 2012 Organizational Ground Protection Award in recognition of their effort in ground water education-CRGW (Central Region Groundwater Protection Committee)
  • 2005 Soil and Water Conservation Merit Award
  • M-P-W Regional Office of Education 2004 Recognition Award for outstanding achievement in Fine Arts and Science for the students of Marshall, Putnam, and Woodford counties for 30 years
  • 2003 Central Illinois Regional Groundwater Committee Organizational Awards
  • 2002 Izaak Walton League of America Honor Roll Award
  • 2001 Izaak Walton League of America-Illinois public service national and state Merit Awards
  • 1998 Clean Water Celebration President's Award for outstanding achievement in environmental protection services, signed by President Bill Clinton
  • 1997 National Award, Council for Environmental Sustainability Renew America
  • 1997 Environmental Success Index
  • 1995 Newsweek Community Solutions for Education Award
  • 1995 Distinguished Merit Award by the Land Use Council
  • Marshall-Putnam Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Excellence in the Field of Public Communications Cousteau Planning Committee by the Public Relations Association of Central Illinois
  • Certificate of Merit Printing Industry of America 1990 Graphic Arts Award Competition for the Wooden Bird publication
  • Illinois Arts Alliance in Education
  • The Illinois and National Soil and Water Societies
  • Marshall-Putnam Soil and Water Conservation District

The Sun Foundation programs are made possible in part by contributions from individuals, businesses and awarded grants.