This photo-mosaic of the downtown skyline of Peoria consists of 2,775 images by Central Illinois artists. Local professional photographer Doug Leunig contributed the master skyline image; Bradley University Professor George Brown designed the “Art Works in Peoria” graphic. The project was overseen by ArtsPartners of Illinois, Inc. An 18-inch by 24-inch poster can be purchased for $25 through ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, 820 SW Adams St., Peoria, IL 61602. Call 309-676-2787.
By Doug and Eileen Leunig
Absolutely nothin’! Say it again. The original 1970 protest song by Edwin Starr was about conflict, but the answer given to war’s value can be applied equally to “art” in the eyes of many people. Chances are if someone’s not connected to the arts industry, they think that art has no value or significance. But they would be mistaken.
The arts are so seamlessly integrated into our lives that we have difficulty identifying them as something separate. Ask a non-artist about creativity and you will frequently get the answer, “Don’t ask me. I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
Those same people don’t think about their appreciation of a movie as performance art or a book they enjoyed as literary art. They don’t understand that a well-designed product that functions properly is a result of applied arts. They would probably never consider that preparing a sumptuous meal is a culinary art. For the general public, the arts represent specialized talent and skills possessed by few. Art suffers from the “single story” pertaining to only those people who can paint, draw, photograph or perform. Art has little value for many people.
If the public perception of the arts is so detached from our lives, why then would the Peoria City Council be so supportive in promoting the arts? Why is one of the underlying principles in the city’s 2025 vision to be a “Regional arts and cultural center with a wide variety of facilities, programs and activities”? Why did the City Council vote on Oct.14 to move forward with a plan to install 13 pieces of sculpture in the warehouse district? Why are they talking about having art murals all over the city? What is happening in Peoria with First Fridays started by the Central Illinois Artist Organization (CIAO)? Why did over 6,300 people participate in the first annual IGNITE Peoria held in August at the Peoria Civic Center?
The quick answer about City Council’s support of the arts stated by Councilman Chuck Weaver is “We’re excited about the role art plays in our community. Art adds to quality of place, quality of place enhances the quality of our workforce and the quality of our workforce increase jobs coming to our city. Everyone wins!”
A deeper view into the value of the arts is the theme of this column. Spoiler alert! We believe the arts are key to our children successfully living in the 21st century. We will show that the arts are more than pretty pictures on the walls or a song in our hearts. We believe the arts are essential to our well-being. We hope you will join us in looking at the arts with fresh eyes as seen in a different light. And we plan to show the real answer to “Art: What Is It Good for?” is “Absolutely Everything!”