Exploring, Expanding, Enlivening the Fine Arts

by Trudy Muller

Curious? The Fine Arts Society of Peoria is here to nourish your imagination.

“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.”
—Arnold Edinborough, writer and arts advocate

Curiosity—the desire to know and learn—drives us to explore our world. It engages the mind and the senses. The Fine Arts Society of Peoria was founded by people with a lively curiosity about the world around them. They were eager to explore the arts, expand their knowledge, and share their quest with others.

For 57 years, the Society has continued its mission of exploring, expanding and enlivening the fine arts by sponsoring presentations from recognized experts in their fields. While information and insights about the arts are readily available today on the Internet, there is something special about learning from someone who is present in the room, in real time. Meeting the speaker in person, asking questions and exchanging ideas enrich the experience.

The Fine Arts Society presents seven programs during its season, with topics spanning a wide range of times and places, from classical to contemporary and from all parts of the globe. A variety of speakers, from museum curators to independent scholars to professional lecturers, provide insight into art’s role in history and culture. The African diaspora, wildlife painting, Winston Churchill, the Dutch Golden Age… all have been topics of recent programs.

Additional events have included a showing of the jazz documentary Keep On Keepin’ On and participation in IGNITE Peoria. This year, the Society began co-sponsoring art films with the Peoria Riverfront Museum. It also sponsors an annual bus trip to a museum, exhibition or architectural site outside the Peoria area. Last season’s trip included a visit to Japan House in Champaign, where participants attended a Japanese tea ceremony, visited the Spurlock Museum and attended a workshop on furoshiki, the Japanese art of cloth folding.

Whether you want to learn something new or add to your knowledge of something familiar, the Fine Arts Society will nourish your curiosity about the arts and their role in our world. For more information, visit FineArtsSociety.net or email membership@fineartssociety.net.

Highlights of the 2018-2019 Season

October 11, 2018 | “Architecture and Life”
Cynthia Weese, FAIA, Principal, Weese Langley Weese Architects Ltd.
Architecture brings meaning and beauty to life. Cynthia Weese will speak about the influences in her own life, including the landscape of her childhood and working in the revitalization of Chicago’s older urban neighborhoods during the turbulent 1960s.

November 8, 2018 | “Crystal Bridges: The Experiment in the Ozarks”
Alejo Benedetti, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
In 2011, Crystal Bridges opened its doors in the heart of the Ozarks—hours from the nearest art museum and squarely in “flyover country.” In the years since, the museum has welcomed millions of visitors and presented a unique mix of exhibitions and experiences. Benedetti will explore a few landmark projects that helped refine the museum’s direction—and offer a peek into what’s on the horizon.

View of Walker Landing and lower pond from the overlook at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

December 13, 2018 | “The Serious Play of Alexander Girard”
Monica Obniski, Demmer Curator of 20th and 21st Century Design, Milwaukee Art Museum
Architect-designer Alexander Girard worked across multiple disciplines. He and his wife were also voracious folk art collectors. This lecture will explore some of Girard’s artistic projects, highlighting his playful designs and use of folk art.

February 14, 2019 | “For the Love of Japanese Prints: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art Institute of Chicago”
Janice A. Katz, Roger L. Weston, Associate Curator of Japanese Art, Art Institute of Chicago
Wright’s activities as a promoter of Japanese prints had a lasting impact on Chicago, which is very much in evidence in the Art Institute’s collection. Janice Katz will present her research into Wright’s role in building the museum’s Japanese print collection, the landmark exhibition he designed in 1908, and the drawings done by Wright and his studio held by the museum.

March 14, 2019 | “The Art of Andrew Wyeth”
Mary Cronin, Dean of Education and Public Programs, Brandywine River Museum of Art
Those who linger with a painting of Andrew Wyeth frequently discover that nothing is as it first seems. Cronin will help unravel the mysteries found in the renowned artist’s work through a discussion of his artistic process and new scholarship on the significant influence of film on his work.

April 11, 2019 | “The Rise of the Vienna Secession: Modern Art, Architecture and Design”
Christopher Long, Martin S. Kermacy, Centennial Professor in Architecture, University of Texas at Austin
In 1897, a small group of artists, architects and designers withdrew from Vienna’s established artists’ union and formed their own organization, the Vienna Secession. Over the next seven years, it was the focus of one of the most potent and far-reaching efforts in Europe to establish a radical new version of Art Nouveau, the so-called Sezessionstil (“Secession Style”).

May 9, 2019 | “Grant Wood: From Farm Boy to American Icon”
Kate Kunau, Associate Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
The Washington Post described Grant Wood as “an artist perpetually fated to be rediscovered.” His life and art have been the subject of much speculation, both during his lifetime and in the decades since. This lecture will discuss Wood’s life, artwork and how his reputation has evolved over the years.

Season highlight image credits: Dero Sanford, courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Art Institute of Chicago Institutional Archives; Brandywine River Museum of Art; Christopher Long, University of Texas; Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. a&s