Art: What is it Good For? | Big Picture Peoria and the next generation of public art

Art What Is It Good For


Summertime for kids are days full of wonder. The regular schedule of school is left behind and the long days of warmth and sunshine hold countless opportunities for new adventures. Happily this summer several children and teens are taking advantage of creative adventures offered by Big Picture Peoria, the nonprofit we began in 2018.

In early June, four Peoria Public Schools (PPS) partnered with Big Picture to have students design and create 20-foot-by-10 foot murals for their schools. Here’s how the collaboration works: PPS handles the enrollment of students and provides the space as well as the hardware to mount the murals. Big Picture Peoria funds professional artists to teach the kids how to make murals. We also supply the paint and the vinyl canvases. Big Picture Peoria raised the funds for this program at our first annual street festival in our Draw for a Cause event when 35 local businesses each pitched in $100 as a sponsor. We will repeat the success of Draw for a Cause at this year’s festival on Oct. 12 and have funds for mural art classes in 2020.

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From left, Clarice Gates, Megan Couri, Marilyn Laws and Harper Nehrig work on a mural as part of the Big Picture Peoria project. The finished mural will hang at Peoria High School. (PHOTO BY EILEEN LEUNIG)

Four schools signed up this summer to give their students the chance to express themselves in a big way and five talented mural artists wanted to be involved in teaching. Jaci Musec is teaching at Northmoor, Megan Couri is teaching at Peoria High, Steve Fairbanks and Terry Spayer are at Trewyn, and Connie Andrews is working with kids from Maude Sanders. To learn more about the artists, visit Big Picture Peoria’s Facebook page.

Students who participate in the program get the firsthand experience of working with a professional artist as they stretch their creative muscles and work collaboratively to create and paint a mural that exemplifies their school. Hats off to all involved.

The final murals will be installed at the schools—either outside for all to enjoy or at some schools such as Trewyn in the cafeteria to brighten the school days for the students.

The second arts education project sponsored by Big Picture was a collaboration with Peoria Park District (PPD). In this case, artist Jessica Ball taught six mural classes with children at the Noble Center and the Proctor Recreation Center. The finished 8-foot by-4-foot murals will be displayed on the fence at Peoria Zoo in time for the park’s 125th anniversary celebration at Glen Oak Park.

Our final arts education endeavor for the summer is also our biggest—a month-long filmmaking class in collaboration with Nikki and Jonathan Romain’s ART Inc. summer camp. Big Picture Peoria’s donors are funding filmmaker Keenan Daley as the teacher as well as providing 10 iMac computers and 10 iPads as cameras for the class. ART Inc’s summer camp runs from July 1-July 26 and will culminate in a day-long celebration of the campers’ artwork.

Our goal as co-founders of Big Picture Peoria, along with our partners ART Inc. PPS, and PPD, is to ensure that all children have the chance to experience creative expression. Artists and arts organizations are valuable members of the community and look for all of us to continue making the future brighter (and more colorful) for Peoria.

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