Emerging Visions

Jan Wright, Publisher, art & society

As home to a range of premier healthcare institutions, Greater Peoria has the potential to become a “Mayo-like” community—a realistic, if ambitious vision acknowledged recently in iBi magazine. One might say the same about the arts, and in fact, many have.

The concept of Peoria as a national “arts destination” has begun to gain steam. That was the whole point of the “Emergence” exhibition at the Peoria Riverfront Museum (PRM) last fall, featuring 54 nationally recognized artists from central Illinois. Among its stated intents: further developing the region’s national arts identity.

They say it takes a village… and now we see Peoria Heights revealing its vision as a boutique destination—bolstered by the acquisition of six sculptures from internationally known sculptor Bruce White, among other recent developments. This emerging cultural district in the Heights reinforces the vision for the entire region: a rising tide that lifts all boats.

For visitors and residents alike, there is more to see and do than ever before. Public art—from outdoor sculpture to murals to ArtPop billboards—has become embedded in our identity. First Fridays invite the public into local artists’ studios each month. World-class institutions like the Peoria Civic Center and PRM continue to offer world-class programming.

“Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln” is the premier Bicentennial exhibition in all of the state—and you can see it right here in Peoria. It’s a fascinating celebration of Illinois people, places and innovations, featuring objects on loan from many prestigious organizations, as well as local collectors and the museum’s own collection.

Sure, Illinois has its problems, but it’s hard to walk away from this exhibit and not feel a sense of pride in our state’s history. And from the Ag Lab to the Underground Railroad, from Betty Friedan to Jim Thome, Greater Peoria is well represented.

Did you know our own Penguin Project was recognized in Washington, DC last fall—and has expanded into 15 states? Or that Illinois’ third-largest Etsy store is located here in Peoria’s Warehouse District? We are proud to share these success stories, which too often fly under the radar.

As you read this issue, we hope you feel a sense of pride about what’s happening in Peoria: the construction of a cultural scene that rivals many midsized communities. a&s

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