Love for the West Bluff

If you’ve spent time in Peoria’s West Main neighborhood lately, you likely noticed that is distinctly more colorful. Over the summer, Peoria Public Art (PPA) emerged as a platform to connect local artists with public spaces available for creative transformation. At the core of their mission is the belief that “an artists’ work has value and that a city can be transformed in a positive and vibrant way by incorporating art for everyone.”

In June of 2018, four PPA artists—Jessica McGhee, Quinton Thomas, Alec DeJesus and Chelsie Tamms—painted the concrete planters at the intersection of University and Columbia Terrace, a project funded by neighborhood resident and Realtor Mike Van Cleve. Soon after, the PPA team began work on a project to bring a West Bluff-specific mural to the One World Café building, in the alleyway off Main Street between Primitiques and Thai Thyme. 

The project, known as LoveWallPeoria, is spearheaded by team members Jaci Musec, Jessica McGhee, Alec DeJesus, Chelsie Tamms and Mae Gilliland Wright—an entire wall of murals dedicated to the love of family, neighborhood, community and city. To raise funds for the project, they invited the public to submit their own messages of love to inscribe on the bricks. 

“LoveWallPeoria has been such a joy to work on,” says Musec. “My favorite thing has been seeing all the different interactions with the wall, from witnessing passersby as they take the wall in for the first time, to seeing photo shoots both professional and impromptu, to the volunteers, apprentices and children who have had a chance to physically add a few brushstrokes. It is a joyful experience.”

For Tamms, LoveWallPeoria and Peoria Public Art projects have been a great opportunity to beautify the neighborhood and show its many possibilities. “The West Bluff is home to so many creative people and activities that it makes sense to start our work there,” she adds. And while McGhee has spent hours and hours on the project, she says it still seems surreal when she sees it driving up West Main Street. “I’m always surprised by it, and then it just makes me happy.” Learn more at a&s