40 North | 88 West began as a true community effort. Local residents saw a need for an umbrella organization that represented the arts in Champaign County. This group met on a regular basis, holding many discussions on the local arts community. After a year of engaging various members of Champaign County in discussion, the group became very organized and applied for a grant from the Illinois Arts Council to hire a consultant. Cheryl Yuen held many focus groups and talked with people throughout the community to determine the need for an arts council. After open discussions, private meetings and weekend retreats, Ms. Yuen gave a report of her findings in June 2001. The general consensus was that the community needed an arts council that truly reflects the arts of Champaign County. There are many artists, artistic venues and organizations that thrive in this area; however, an umbrella organization was in need to facilitate collaborative efforts, inform the public of the local arts community and act as an advocate for local arts, culture and entertainment.
In July, 2002, 40 North received funding, again from the Illinois Arts Council, to hire a graduate intern. With a full-time staff person in place, it was possible to launch the organization. During Illinois Arts Week, 40 North had its official launch celebration. People from throughout the county were represented at the celebration. The event was hugely successful, a perfect start for the organization. 40 North continues to strengthen its internal structures, develop greater and more diverse relationships with various stakeholders and boost its public image. The awareness and value of 40 North and the arts of Champaign County continue to gain momentum.