By Craig Stocks / Photography by Doug Leunig
Every year since 1993, the month of October has been designated as “National Arts and Humanities Month.” Its purpose is to encourage us to explore and appreciate how the arts and humanities enrich our lives and to encourage us to participate. According to Americans for the Arts, “it has become the nation’s largest collective annual celebration of the arts.”
This week we’re celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month by recognizing the collective talents of all the artists in the Peoria Area. After all, it’s the artists who create the art that we see and enjoy every day. Occasionally we make a conscious decision to go to a show or exhibit, but we also subconsciously enjoy the art that surrounds us. No matter where you are, just look and listen and chances are that you’ll find your environment is filled with graphic designs, videos, photos, paintings, sculptural elements and music. Even our buildings, roads and bridges are the results of artistic creativity.
We’re fortunate that the Peoria area is rich with a wide variety of visual and performing artists who share the products of their creativity with the community. We’re equally fortunate for the efforts of the organizations and supporters of the numerous events that will be taking place during October and throughout the year. Just as art wouldn’t exist without artists, the shows and exhibits couldn’t exist without the organizations that make them possible.
The Central Illinois Artists Organization (CIAO) was created just over a year ago with the goal of creating monthly opportunities for local residents to get to know the artists. There are now more than 50 artists in eleven or more venues who participate in the monthly “First Friday Studio Tours” which will next take place this Friday, October 5. It’s a great opportunity to chat with the artist and gain insights into both the work and the person who created it.
Building on the success of CIAO, the new Peoria Riverfront Museum’s inaugural show will feature the work of Tri-County artists in the “CIAO and Friends Invitational Art Show.” More than 500 separate works of art were submitted by 220 individual artists to be considered for the show. After many hours of review, the jury selected the works of 75 artists for the exhibition. The museum is scheduled to open on October 20 and the show will run until spring of 2013.
According to show curators Doug and Eileen Leunig, there was much more artwork to be shared with the public than the museum show could accommodate. Through discussions with Ron Rae, director of the residency program at the Prairie Center of the Arts (PCA), the idea for a second venue was formed. Ron suggested the show be called a “Vernissage,” which is a French term referring to a preview of an art exhibit.
According to Ron, “The initial goal for the Vernissage was to be a community builder and have a community art event where all of the artists could come together to celebrate art.” Michele Richey, President of the PCA said, “We have some really great artists in this community and it’s nice to be able to show their work.”
The Vernissage will be open for viewing at the Prairie Center of the Arts from October 8 through November 16, weekdays from 10:00 AM through 4:00 PM. There are also plans for occasional extended evening and weekend hours that will be announced on the PCA webpage as well as on the PCA Facebook page.
Another idea that grew from the wealth of submissions is the book “Art Lives in Central Illinois.” Where a show catalog typically concentrates on the art being exhibited, this book focuses on the artists themselves. The book was generously underwritten by Sharon and John Amdall who wrote in the book’s forward, “Enjoy this book that introduces you to many of the artists who live and create in our communities throughout the Peoria Area. Seek them out and get to know them. Our communities are better – more interesting, more vibrant – for the artists who live and work here.” The books can be purchased at many of the CIAO studio locations. The proceeds will be used by ArtsPartners of Central Illinois with the goal of creating funds for future projects.
Also joining in the celebration, ArtsPartners of Central Illinois has designated October 2012 as “All About The Arts.“ A group of dedicated volunteers has been working since spring to create a series of photos of 87 local artists and arts supporters. Each photo is accompanied by a statement from the artist explaining how they’re personally affected by the arts. The photos will be posted daily on the ArtsPartners Facebook page, so be sure to “Like” ArtsPartners on Facebook so you don’t miss out. Some of the slides will also be shown on WEEK-TV during the “News 25 Today” morning news program as well as on WTVP-TV.
Of course, there are numerous other opportunities to enjoy the art and cultural events that help define Peoria, Illinois. One of the best ways to stay informed is through ArtsPartners’ weekly and monthly calendars of events. Sign up for a free email newsletter by visiting www.artspartners.net/join and you’ll always know what’s “Playing in Peoria.”