A Space for Budding Artists

by Liz Scoville

Building creative opportunities for young artists in Peoria…

For just over a year, Art-Space Peoria has offered gallery space and workshop opportunities to local artists from its home in Peoria’s Warehouse District. Its founders, Kaye Berry and George Pratt, are passionate about the arts in education and the community—especially for children. Last year, their inaugural “Artists Under 16” project blossomed into a chance to spark inspiration in local students, proving the enduring power and consequence of art for all ages.

Channeling Creativity
“Art-Space was a concept we developed… to help expose the community to a wider range of art and artists,” explains Pratt. Inside their building on Adams Street, Peoria-area artists have found a low-cost avenue to display and sell their work, but he and Berry believed something was missing: a program catering to children.

Seeking to enhance their opportunities in an age of reduced (or eliminated) arts programs in public schools, Berry and Pratt created Artists Under 16, a gallery event for local students to showcase their work. They received an overwhelming response from young artists wanting to contribute to the first showing last September—and an equally strong response from supportive patrons. “We had 38 pictures from the students, and 37 of them were sold within 10 days,” Berry exclaims. “We had to get them to bring more in!”

A musician and artist with a therapeutic background, Pratt believes Artists Under 16 can provide a positive way for children to channel their creative energy—and build a sense of community. “Kids don’t always have these opportunities to learn new things and express themselves like they did [when I was young],” he explains. “That’s why I see the value of teaching art to kids… giving them an escape.”

The experience of making, presenting and selling art, he adds, can have a significant effect on children’s self-worth. “It’s good for their development, and it’s a good opportunity for them to work on something, have it turn out the way they want it to, and turn around and have somebody buy it. What kind of validation is going to top that?”

New Life on Southwest Adams
Not long ago, this block of Adams Street was neglected and run-down; today, it’s taken on a new, creative life. In addition to Art-Space, other businesses at 817 SW Adams include Guitar Picker and Mystic Arts, Ltd., while Vintage Gypsy Creations, Haunted Peoria Tours and numerous other organizations operate out of the building. Across the street: Sugar, ArtsPartners, Ear in the Envelope and the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria. Holding down the corner at 803 SW Adams is the popular Zion Coffee Bar, while Rambler, a men’s specialty shop, is set to open next door to Zion later this year.

With regular gallery showings on First Fridays, Berry and Pratt, along with new board member Marcus Fogliano, are hard at work spreading the word about artistic opportunities at Art-Space Peoria. Having opened the call to private and public schools through a more structured application process, they are now readying a follow-up Artists Under 16 exhibition. And Berry is excited about its prospects this year, with new opportunities opening up for young artists. “We’ve got some major companies and retail stores that are donating gift cards and scholarships,” she notes. “I’m really glad, for what we intended it to be, it’s turned so positive.”

“It’s giving these kids something to focus on… besides playing video games and watching DVDs,” adds Pratt. “And it’s an alternative to what’s going on in the streets.” a&s

The 2017 Artists Under 16 exhibition runs May 3 to June 2, 2017 at Art-Space Peoria, 817 SW Adams, Suite 201. For more information, visit facebook.com/artspacepeoria.