Vibrancy and Community Spirit

It’s been a long time coming, but the revitalization of downtown Peoria is well on its way. What will 2015 bring? I’m excited to watch Pat Sullivan’s plans for the Sealtest building take shape—including a new fine dining option from restaurateur Travis Mohlenbrink—as well as the expansion and relocation of Rhodell’s brewery, with many other announcements expected in the coming months.

Public works of art are shaping up to play a key role in Peoria’s re-energized Warehouse District, as they have done for the Riverfront. Gracing this issue’s cover is Portal, the sculpture installed last fall at the Washington and Harrison roundabout, which heralds a rush of new public art coming to the city. And how fitting that the Richard Pryor sculpture—created by our own Preston Jackson—will also find a home in the Warehouse District!

Sculpture Walk Peoria has made tremendous progress in its efforts to create an annual juried competition of outdoor sculptures along Washington Street. By early summer, the group plans to have 10 sculptures on the street, with plans for expansion in the years to come. A call for submissions, now open, runs through January 23, 2015; the committee is also seeking individuals and businesses to become charter sponsors of the inaugural sculpture walk. For the details, visit artspartners.net/sculpture-walk-peoria.

Meanwhile, a competition is underway to envision two monumental gateways that would serve as defining elements of the emerging Warehouse District. The contest is open to all creatives—architects, engineers, artists, designers… anyone with an exciting idea. Visit thewhiskeycity.com/projects/art-infrastructure to learn more.

Elsewhere in Peoria, new public murals along West Main Street and Western Avenue are bringing vibrancy to their neighborhoods. Across the river, Morton gained its first piece of public art in September when Morgan Elser’s Giving Tree sculpture was unveiled outside the Morton Community Foundation. And finally, a new sculpture is coming to the City of Washington in 2015.

Charles Strain, creator of the Treble Clef sculpture celebrating WTVP and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, was recently commissioned to recognize the city’s resilience in recovering from the 2013 tornadoes. Strain’s Community Spirit sculpture will feature five figures representing the organizations that came together to form Five Points Washington—the city, high school, library, park district and Washington Area Community Center.

Are you as excited as I am to begin the new year? Look through that portal—catch the spirit and energy of a lively downtown. Now peer through that portal: one year, two years… 10 years from now, and imagine what the future may bring! a&s

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