DIXON – VIVA! Performing Arts School, which has seen two of its employees charged in a sexual abuse investigation, has ties to a Chicago-based group that has millions of dollars in assets.
Dixon-based VIVA! has the same president, Curt Schmitt, as the Canterbury Foundation, which had more than $4.5 million in its coffers in 2012.
Canterbury has given grants to VIVA! as well as other groups, among them The Next Picture Show, another Dixon nonprofit organization.
Last week, Tim Boles, the drama director for VIVA!, was charged with failing to report abuse allegations that had been made against Robert Campbell by a former student.
Campbell, 31, was arrested Nov. 4 on three counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Dixon police began investigating Campbell after a former student sent an email alleging the abuse to Dixon Public Schools Superintendent Michael Juenger and other administrators. Juenger reported the issue to police.
After the student told Boles about the abuse, officials said, Campbell continued to actively work with VIVA! programs as well as during private lessons. Boles never reported it to police, authorities said.
Campbell was a part-time school employee who worked on performances for the theater department of Dixon Public Schools. The abuse didn’t take place in the public schools, police said.
School officials advised to stay silent
Police Chief Danny Langloss said last week that police have statements from more than one person indicating that Schmitt also knew about the allegations.
Schmitt didn’t return a message left at his Chicago phone number Tuesday.
Barbara Sullivan, VIVA!’s attorney, said she had instructed Schmitt and others at VIVA! not to comment on the allegations of sexual abuse.
“Trying this case in the court of public opinion is a bad idea,” she said.
In response to the chief’s statement about Schmitt, Sullivan called it “ridiculous.”
“If he has some evidence, then I assume the state’s attorney, who would be the appropriate person to file an indictment, would do that,” Sullivan said. “That hasn’t been done. I don’t know why the police chief is making statements like that.”
Langloss said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing.
“[Schmitt] continues to refuse to talk with us and return our calls,” the chief said. “My detectives are creating their game plan.There is a potential he could be charged criminally. That final decision hasn’t been made.”
Schmitt lived in the Dixon area for years, Sullivan said, but she didn’t know what he did for a living then.
“He has been retired and does charitable work,” she said.
She emphasized that VIVA! is separate from Canterbury, saying it gives grants to the school, among other recipients.
“The Canterbury Foundation does nothing to tell VIVA! Performing Arts School how to operate their organization,” Sullivan said.
Canterbury was founded more than 20 years ago. VIVA! has been around for a few years. At first, The Next Picture Show was VIVA!’s fiscal agent, but the school became a separate nonprofit organization a couple of years ago, Sullivan said.
“[VIVA!] grew much more than they anticipated, so they incorporated,” the attorney said.
‘Canterbury has wonderful history’
Ellen Allen of Dixon, who is VIVA!’s vice president, said Canterbury’s relationship with the school is limited.
“The only way we are associated with Canterbury is that it gives us some money,” she said. “Canterbury has a wonderful history.”
She said Sullivan advised her not to comment on the sexual abuse case.
According to Canterbury’s tax forms, it gave $314,233 to nonprofit groups in 2011. Its top recipient was The Next Picture Show, which received $141,300 for a renovation project, according to the 990 form, which is publicly available.
It also donated $89,500 to the Canterbury Music Society in Sterling, the form states. Sauk Valley Media could find no information for that group.
A Dixon-based accountant for Wipfli, Rory Sohn, prepared tax forms for both Canterbury and VIVA! He couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kathy Hann, director of VIVA!, hasn’t returned numerous messages left over the past couple of weeks.
The school continues its operations, Sullivan said. But parts of its website were taken down late last week, including its homepage. The faculty page also was eliminated; it had contained biographies and pictures for a number of instructors, including Boles and Campbell.
Sullivan, who is listed in tax forms as the secretary-treasurer of Canterbury, said Sauk Valley Media shouldn’t focus on the negative.
“I would like to see the Telegraph cover the good work of these organizations, instead of this negative, salacious story,” she said. “The charges have been leveled. The arrests have been made. Now, it belongs to the court system.”