Art: What is it Good For? | Ten miles in two blocks

Art What Is It Good For

DOUG AND EILEEN LEUNIG

How can you walk 10 miles in two blocks? Organize a festival. While our feet, joints, muscles and skin (wind chapped lips) hurt, our physical discomfort was secondary to our joy in seeing proof that the arts matter. The proof was obvious in the smiles and excitement of our 3,000+ guesstimated crowd of attendees at Big Picture Peoria 2019 Street Festival.

The second Saturday in October is home to a two-year fledgling street festival encompassing everything from a molten iron pour to Broadway show tune performances to axe throwing to live mural painting. The Big Picture Peoria Festival is one pillar of the parent Big Picture Initiative because we believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience the arts. We believe Peoria can become a national arts destination and stimulate economic development. We believe young artists need encouragement and support and deserve every bit as much attention as student athletes. We believe artists must be paid for their labors, and we believe the arts are critical for community well-being and need to be in the public eye.

Big Picture

The 1300 and 1200 blocks of Southwest Adams in Peoria were alive with 40 arts activities. Maps and signage were necessary to help attendees find their interests. (PHOTO BY BEAU COMMANDAY)

Making the arts visible is a Big Picture Peoria goal that takes an incredible amount of time and energy. Without including our festival management time, we guesstimated about 2,000 person-hours for 15½ display hours. That doesn’t even begin to account for the preparation time for artists in rehearsal, installations and art making. The grand figure could possibly double. The goal of making Peoria, let alone all of Central Illinois, an arts destination becomes increasingly remote when calculating the cost in time and energy that something of that scale takes.

What if there was another way? Right now there are only a few dozen artists and several arts organizations working together to help put on Big Picture Peoria. What if dozens of organizations out of the 80 or so in our metro area raised their hands to participate. What if there was a way to link together sponsors and organizations? What if thousands of arts organizations’ members collaborated to show their talents in a street festival? There is a way to make it all work by putting our heads together. Collaborations create new ways of seeing things. Big Picture Initiative wants to showcase examples of working together to improve community.

We believe in the power of the arts to change the way we look at things. We have always said that everything changes with the light you see it in. The light we see in Peoria is brilliant and recently intensified tenfold with Kim Blickenstaff’s contributions to the arts. Now is the time for artists and arts organization to have a more powerful voice working together through acquiring sponsorships. Big Picture Initiative wants to help make that happen.

If invited, we will share our expertise with any organization wanting to be involved with its own Big Picture Peoria 2020 event. We will share possibilities of the arts and the answers they provide. Our end goal is to showcase examples of how the arts matter. It’s not just pictures on the wall. Ultimately it is about loving what you do and doing what you love. We have seen from our own experience how much the arts create joy … and how much healing they bring. Now, if only the arts would work on sore feet!

Doug and Eileen Leunig



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