Art: What is it Good For? | Giving Voice

Northmoor School mural

Big Picture offers art opportunities for students in Peoria Public Schools. It helped students create this 20-foot mural at Northmoor School. This year, Big Picture has launched “Giving Voice,” a digital zine written by students. (PHOTO BY DOUG LEUNIG)

Art What Is It Good For


In May of 2018, we started our 501(c)(3) Big Picture Initiative with a 1,650 square foot portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the Peoria County Courthouse. We assumed the monumental task of creating something even bigger and more powerful would be far in the future. We were wrong. Only two years later we have created a team including professional writer Dr. Mae Gilliland Wright, Richwoods High School student Trent Miles and Bradley student Jamie Wunning to produce a program that could ultimately benefit over 200,000 households in central Illinois. We are calling it “Giving Voice.”

Giving Voice is possible through a $25,000 charitable donation from the Gilmore Foundation. The funding will provide an avenue to launch a new online magazine written by students called Giving Voice. The first digital issue will be published early fall 2020 and will be available to the public.

Giving Voice students will write articles and create video on topics and issues affecting today’s young people: racial injustice, environmental protection, adapting to a virtual world, living through COVID-19, and many more topics. Students will work with a professional writer and mentor to hone their writing skills, and the students will be paid for published articles.

Big Picture Initiative is undertaking the Giving Voice to support the future generation that will be solving today’s problems by providing valuable professional resources and a voice to be heard.

“By giving students the opportunity to gain experience in being more effective communicators and having a public audience, we are preparing the next generation for the workplace of the future,” said Doug Leunig, co-founder Big Picture Initiative.

“The Big Picture team’s creativity and passion, combined with strong partners in the Giving Voice Initiative (Bradley, Richwoods, Peoria Public Schools and ICC), have created a vehicle for arts education in the midst of the challenges of COVID-19 that the Gilmore Foundation is proud to support,” said Laura Cullinan, Gilmore Foundation executive director.

“Big Picture prides itself on having an arts connection through every project. I think this is an amazing opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds to come together and talk about issues that matter to them,” said Big Picture intern Trent Miles.

“Our goal is to be part of the answer in creating empathy and equity in our community, so in addition to the online zine by students, we will publish Giving Voice Community Stories where people from different backgrounds and beliefs are invited to share their personal stories in podcasts and videos,” said Eileen Leunig, Big Picture co-founder. “The resulting stories will help members of our community understand what life is like for those in our city who are not our immediate neighbors or the folks making headlines.”

Big Picture Initiative is inviting student writers to submit a 300-500 word article on a topic of interest to them. They are also looking for students who want to work on animation, illustration and graphic design opportunities. Students can reach the Giving Voice team at

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