Above: Hiram Toraason bought and renovated a 1930s machine shop, transforming it into the Toraason Glass studio.
It was the artisans, inventors, farmers and makers who first built the communities of Illinois—and they continue to shape our culture and make a positive impact on the local economy. Right here in central Illinois, we have our fair share of makers who contribute to a thriving economy and a vibrant visitor experience.
The Illinois Made program celebrates those makers and inspires visitors and fellow Illinoisans to discover unique experiences throughout the state. To be considered, makers must exemplify what it means to be a local artisan and offer a one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found in the cities, towns and communities of Illinois. They must have a storefront or studio that is open to the public, and all crafts, products and wares must be produced in Illinois, with materials and/or expertise sourced from other local businesses.
Peoria Magazine interviewed Jan Kemmerling, acting director of the Illinois Office of Tourism, about how to qualify for the program and why it’s important for our state and local economies.
What is the Illinois Made program and how has it evolved?
Launched in 2016, Illinois Made spotlights the people, products and authentic experiences you can have in Illinois and inspires travelers to explore destinations across the state. There are currently more than 145 makers in the program.
Why is this program important to state tourism efforts?
The Illinois Made program promotes authentic travel experiences throughout the state. By expanding this successful program, the Illinois Office of Tourism is encouraging visitors to discover more hidden gems and travel to places off the beaten path. Not only does the program boost visitor spending and tax revenue for our communities, but it also builds awareness of everything Illinois has to offer.
How often do you allow participants to join the program?
Submissions come in through our website, EnjoyIllinois.com on a rolling basis year-round, but we typically announce a new class every six months, give or take.
What is it about Peoria makers, specifically, that stands out?
All of our makers have a deep connection to Illinois, and our makers in Peoria are no exception. Peoria in particular has a thriving art scene and rich history as the largest city on the Illinois River. The makers here have a unique story—whether it’s being inspired to start their own business while working at a local coffee shop or while taking an elective class at Southern Illinois University. But we’ll let the stories tell themselves.
Can you cite some other prominent Illinois makers who stand out to you?
One new Illinois Made maker is Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman, known for “You Are Beautiful,” a global project that aims to better the world in little ways. His public art displays featuring positive messages have been exhibited around the world, with nearly 30 currently featured in the Chicagoland area, including the new Illinois Office of Tourism #AmazingForAll art installation in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago. In 2018, Matthew opened the first flagship store and gallery, You Are Beautiful Headquarters (YAB HQ) in Chicago. The retail store is open to the public daily, along with tours and workshops in the studio. PS
Know a Peoria maker who may qualify for this program? Nominate your favorite here.