When artist Blair Jeffers first moved to central Illinois from Grand Rapids, Michigan, she met plenty of artists who were struggling to make inroads in Peoria. “There was an art scene present in Peoria, but I was finding that a lot of the younger artists didn’t even know where to begin,” she explains.
That prompted her to organize Unseen Voices, which later became the Emerging Artists Collective (EAC). In recent years, the EAC has worked to connect artists with one another, as well as provide information about local resources and opportunities. Jeffers says that she always wanted to encourage collaborative projects, helping artists learn what it is like to create something with another person. “And to make it work well together, to learn about each other, your common thoughts or feelings—and see how your mediums can blend, push and pull on one another,” she reflects.
It was from this desire that she and the EAC embarked on a new collaborative “zine” (a small, self-published magazine) with another local group, Bluffs Literary Magazine. They announced a call for entries last November in four categories: the arts, spoken word, music and written word. Along with Destinee Wilson and Alyssa McMillen of Bluffs Literary Magazine, they put together a panel of jurors who selected 28 entries for the project. The participants were then divided into pairs and asked to work together to create something based on a common theme. This theme, which is being kept secret until the project’s release, will tie all of the work from the various artists together.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jeffers worried that the artists would lose interest in the project. Instead, she was thrilled to find a renewed energy. “I think we all needed a little something to partake in that wasn’t just the chaos in the world,” she observes.
The collaborative zine will go on sale November 1, 2020, packaged as a multi-media experience. The groups are also planning an online event in celebration of the release. “I am so proud of everyone,” Jeffers says. “This was a fun but tough project to take on at a time like this.” Follow their Facebook page for more information: facebook.com/eacbluffscollab. PM