Tag Archives: Peoria Riverfront Museum

Riding the COVID Roller Coaster in Peoria

Remember when each season brought a different array of events to follow in central Illinois? Explore Peoria remembers.

But that was before the pandemic. Now in the spring of 2021, as vaccinations spread across the community, there are signs of hope.

Yet this month (April) saw the coronavirus return with a vengeance. The Peoria area was labeled a national epicenter for COVID-19 by Dr. Doug Kasper, interim section head of infectious disease at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, who urged continued caution by area residents on WMBD, a Peoria radio station.

The Peoria area has become accustomed to the stop-and-go, roller-coaster ride that’s become the norm in the era of the coronavirus.

It’s been more than a year that restrictions have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus. Work and school routines have been altered. The elimination of crowds and the closing of many places of business has become a routine.

Apparently, we’re not out of the woods yet. Despite these problems, however, the area’s sports light is flickering back on.

Consider Andrew “AJ” Funk, the 29-year-old substitute teacher from Morton who’s trying to bring arena football back to central Illinois in the middle of a pandemic.

The Central Illinois Royals play the Kurse from Kentucky this Saturday (April 24) at the Morton Park District Indoor Sports Facility, 324 S. Detroit Ave. in Morton. For more information, check http://royalsfootball.com

“We’ve worked on setting up arena football for a couple of years but COVID has thrown a curve ball into it,” said Funk, who played football at Eureka College.

In the newly-formed division, the Royals square off against teams like the Great Lakes Phoenix, St. Louis Bandits and Indianapolis Enforcers.

“We’ve had eight games on the schedule so far. After Saturday’s game we’ve got a home game at the end of May and another in early June,” he said.

With capacity limited to only a few hundred people at the Morton facility (when restrictions are not in effect), the Royals have sought to stream games to allow for more exposure. “We’re just trying to get things off the ground this year,” said Funk, who also serves with the Illinois National Guard and as a volunteer fireman when not organizing football games.

Funk said he hopes to recreate the excitement of arena football in the area that was enjoyed by the Peoria Pirates, who played at the Peoria Civic Center from 1999 to 2009.

Also looking to stir some excitement is Jason Mott, general manager of the Peoria Chiefs, the Class A farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We’re playing catch-up,” said Mott, referring to the fact that the team had to cancel its 2020 season in Peoria.

“We just hope we’re moving forward—not backward. We’re definitely excited to bring pro baseball back here,” he said.

“Everything is subject to change. We’ll adjust as we go. We’re expecting to be able to accommodate 25 percent capacity when we open. That’s about 1,250 people in the bowl,” said Mott.

Look for some changes to accommodate public safety, he said. “We encourage people to get tickets early. We’re trying to eliminate lines,” said Mott.

“We can’t do things on the field with the fans we used to do. We’re also working on some new food options. People can order online and pick it up at the stand (inside the park) or have it delivered to their seats,” he said.

The impact of the pandemic varies across the league, said Mott, noting that teams like the Quad Cities Bandits are able to go “wide open” when it comes to crowds at their home park in Davenport, Iowa.

Another area team looking to get back on track in 2021 is the Peoria Rivermen ice hockey team that kicks off its 40th season at the Peoria Civic Center in October.

“I would hope that by the end of October we’d be able to put enough people in the PCC to cover our annual operations budget of $1.7 million,” said Bart Rogers, the Rivermen owner and CEO.

Forced to cancel last year’s season, the Rivermen look to take advantage of pent-up demand, he said. “We have lots of good things planned. Three-quarters of our fans are casual fans who might come out once or twice a year. We want to draw them back,” said Rogers.

A new addition to this year’s schedule involve games with a new team in the league, the Vermilion County Bobcats out of Danville, he said.

“Not only will playing in Danville save traveling costs but it gives Rivermen fans around the state the chance to see more hockey,” said Rogers.

Part of the Rivermen organization since 1992, Rogers credited Bruce Saurs, the late former owner, with making the commitment responsible for the team’s success and longevity.

With promotions to honor the team’s 40th year already in the works, Rogers is proud of what the Rivermen have accomplished in Peoria. “We have the seventh longest streak for a pro hockey franchise in the country outside of the National Hockey League,” he said.

Meanwhile the Peoria Civic Center is hoping conditions improve enough to allow for activities before Rivermen games return in late October.

Rik Edgar, the Peoria Civic Center’s general manager, hopes to bring the arena back to life as soon as possible. “We should know more in the next 30 to 45 days,” he said in an email.

It was recently announced that the Center’s Carver Arena will host the Illinois Regional Basketball Tournament (TBT) from July 24 to 28. Among the 16 teams participating will be alumni squads from the University of Illinois and Bradley University.

Other area openings are also on the horizon. After being closed all of last year, the Wheels O’ Time Museum (located at 1710 W. Woodside Drive in Dunlap) plans to open on Saturday, May 1 while the Peoria Riverfront Museum, already holding events, is gearing up for the opening of a national exhibit, “T-Rex—the Ultimate Predator” on May 29.

Peoria Riverfront Museum Reopens with New Exhibitions

The Peoria Riverfront Museum reopens this Saturday, March 6 with new exhibitions featuring a new and expanded presentation of Preston Jackson’s “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story”.  Also new is the “101 Treasures of the Peoria Riverfront Museum Collection,” which includes unreleased early publicity photographs of Richard Pryor by area photographer and Golden Voice Studio owner Jerry Milam.  And the “Community: African American Experience During Migration,” exhibition spotlights the story of New Philadelphia and Black Illinois achievers including Peoria High School alumna Annie Malone, the first Black woman millionaire in the United States.

Jackson, an acclaimed Peoria-based artist, who is professor emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and recipient of the Order of Lincoln Medallion, the State of Illinois’ highest honor, redesigned his seminal work, “Bronzeville to Harlem,” to be a semi-permanent installation in the museum’s renovated Owens Gallery, formerly The Street Gallery.

“Magnificently timed as we reopen the museum with an exhibition of the museum‘s 101 greatest treasures, legendary artist Preston Jackson has promised to give his lifetime masterwork, ‘Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story’ to the Peoria Riverfront Museum‘s permanent collection,” said museum president & CEO John Morris. “At the perfect moment in our society’s history, this act of extraordinary generosity by the artist, his family, and his many supporters represents the largest, most valuable, and important story-telling art installation ever given for the public inspiration in the history of Peoria.”

“Exhibited for the first time this expanded version of Preston Jackson’s ‘Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story’ has for more than 25 years grown into a sprawling, vibrant cityscape. The neighborhoods referenced in the title flourished with northward moving African American populations in the first third of the 20th century during ‘The Great Migration,’” said museum chief curator, Bill Conger.

Opening alongside “Bronzeville to Harlem” is “101 Treasures of the Peoria Riverfront Museum Collection,” showcasing a selection spanning 57 years of collecting the most important artistic works, scientific objects, historic relics and achievement-related stories that define the museum’s permanent collection. On display are works by Auguste Rodin, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Sol Lewitt, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Pauline Palmer, Frederick Remington, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as historical artifacts from the Lincoln’s goblet to John Dillinger’s death mask, a Canyon Diablo meteorite and minerals and insects from the museum’s natural history collection.

“Community: African American Experience During Migration,” is a special exhibition on the shaping of America and in particular the Illinois communities of Brooklyn and New Philadelphia by freedom-seeking Black achievers, including former Peoria and Brooklyn resident Annie Malone who become America’s first Black woman millionaire.

The new exhibitions are designed with education in mind, including students and their families visiting with the museum’s Every Student Initiative Student+Family Fun Pass, that provides free museum visits to all Peoria Public Schools and East Peoria District 86 K-8 students. The pass provides free bus transportation to and from the museum, courtesy of CityLink. Pass holders can also view special Giant Screen Theater movies and earn a trip to “T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator,” debuting in Peoria May 29.

Entry to the exhibitions and Dome Planetarium is free for members and Every Student Initiative Student+Family Fun Pass holders, $11 adults, $10 seniors age 60+ and students with ID, and $9 youth ages 3-17. Giant Screen Theater experience is extra. For more information on the museum, exhibitions, Dome Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater, call 309.686.7000 or visit RiverfrontMuseum.org 

Peoria Riverfront Museum 

The only multidisciplinary museum of its kind in the nation, the Peoria Riverfront Museum uses art, science, history and achievement to inspire confidence, lifelong learning, and talent. Since opening in 2012, the privately funded museum has provided more than one million experiences through major exhibitions, a permanent collection, interactive galleries, a dome planetarium, giant screen theater and educational programming including curricula-related student visits. The AAM-accredited, Smithsonian-affiliated private nonprofit museum is supported by more than 4,000 members and donors, and is housed in a county-owned LEED Gold-certified building on a campus overlooking the Illinois River.

Find Peoria area events information on our Calendar!

Black History Month 2021 in Peoria

How does Black History Month impact Peorians?  You only have to think of Peoria’s underground railroad ties commemorated by Peoria artist Preston Jackson “Knocking on Freedom’s Door” attached to the Peoria Civic Center building which is located on a historical underground railroad site of the home of Moses and Lucy Pettengill, who courageously helped escaped slaves flee the South to claim their freedom.

And there’s also Peoria’s ties to Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies, notably describing his experiences as a slave in his “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” (1845), which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855). Following the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” (1881).

Douglass spoke several times in Peoria, noted Marilyn Leyland of the Peoria Historical Society, referencing Romeo Garrett’s research on African American history in the area. “Three days after Abraham Lincoln countered the arguments of Stephen Douglas here (in Peoria) in 1854, drawing the line against expansion of slavery, Douglass was scheduled to play that same role in Aurora,” stated Leyland.

In 1859, Douglass was at Rouse’s Hall in Peoria in late February and in early March delivering anti-slavery lectures from his personal perspective. By this time, Douglass had founded an anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester, N.Y.

Douglass lectured again in Peoria on March 10, 1864, under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Aid Commission. After the Civil War, Douglass returned to Rouse’s Hall, brought by the Library Association of Peoria. His last visit, on Feb. 7, 1870, was for the benefit of Ward Chapel AME Church.

And of course, there’s the most famous black Peorian of all, Richard Pryor.  Widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time, his legacy is commemorated by Preston Jackson, who created the sculpture of Pryor now on display at the corners of Washington & State streets in downtown Peoria.

Jackson’s “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story” which will premiere at the Peoria Riverfront Museum this spring, showcases the stories of American migration and immigration, hope and opportunity, freedom and the struggle for equality.

Twenty-five years in the making, “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story,” created by Jackson, is a sculptural installation comprised of hundreds of unique small bronze and steel figures, relief sculptures, automobiles, buildings, streets and a truss bridge. Originally entitled “From Bronzeville to Harlem,” the cityscape is a simultaneously playful and serious contemplation of the individual stories that made up the urban centers from places such as Peoria, Chicago’s Bronzeville and the Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan.

Completed in 2020, in conjunction with the centennial of the start of the Harlem Renaissance, Jackson more than doubled the size of the original installation and retitled the piece, “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story.”

The period known in history as the Harlem Renaissance represented a cultural and artistic movement spanning the 1920s in the urban communities in the Northeast and Midwest during the great migration. “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story” showcases the stories of American migration and immigration, hope and opportunity, freedom and the struggle for equality.

Installed as the climactic centerpiece of the Peoria Riverfront Museum Gallery known as The Street,  the sculpture provides an artistic experience unique among any in the nation.  An immersion for visitors into the Harlem Renaissance, the exhibit is set to period jazz music and brought to life with expert lighting and an audio narration by actors and the artist himself.   The museum kicked off the month with a special program on Feb. 6 in the museum lobby and African American Wall of Fame.  Find full details at http://www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org

Peoria Public Schools is preparing the roll out of BH365, its new Black History curriculum in the fall, beginning at the high school level. Features from the comprehensive K-12 curriculum are running on the district Facebook page throughout February.  A state-mandated reform of social studies curriculum, PPS will offer classes with a greater focus on Black History and the contributions of other underrepresented groups to American culture.   “With the adoption of BH365 curriculum, Peoria Public Schools is ahead of the curve on meeting new curriculum standards,” said Lisa Gifford, the PPS Literacy and Social Studies Coordinator who has managed the process.

Some online Black History Month programs include “Eyewitness to History: Tuskegee Airman Dr. Harry Quinton” which will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 2 pm.  Celebrate Black History Month with a very special conversation between two members of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Dr. Harry Quinton is an original Tuskegee Airman, who spent three years in the Army Air Corps and served as an aviation mechanic during World War II. Dr. Quinton experienced the pain of discrimination, and the joy of seeing pilots fly for the very first time. This interview will be conducted by Howard Baugh, son of the late Tuskegee Airman Howard Baugh.

Quinton is a member of the Tidewater Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and Baugh is currently the President of the Howard Baugh Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. located in Petersburg, VA. Learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and its chapters at https://www.tuskegeeairmen.org

Although free, registration is required and may be done HERE

Anther Black History Month event will take place on Friday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 pm when the University of Illinois Chicago presents political activist and son of the late Black Panther Party leader, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. on Zoom to answer your questions. Learn about his involvement in the Black Panther party and how the youth can play a role in preserving the culture.  Hampton’s father was slain along with Peorian Mark Clark in a raid by Chicago police in 1969.  Join HERE

Further Resources:

Among online resources to celebrate Black History Month (suggested by Judy Schmidt of Illinois Extension) are:

Reading Rockets: a national public literacy initiative with a vast collection of book suggestions, interviews, classroom activities and virtual resources that celebrate and educate about the lives and contributions of African Americans.

The National Portrait Gallery with over 1000 portraits of African American history makers.

–The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Find Peoria area events on our calendar.

COVID19 Stay-at-Home

Since the global pandemic of COVID19 along with the COVID19 Stay-at-Home governor’s order affects virtually all events & entertainment for the foreseeable future, ExplorePeoria.com has suspended sending it’s weekly email newsletters until further notice.  Once events begin to happen again, the newsletter will resume it’s normal schedule.

With kids at home now, parents are most likely looking for educational and interesting activities for their kids.  Here are a few ideas that may help keep kids engaged during the Stay-at-Home order.  We will update this page with additional ideas and links to local resources that ExplorePeoria.com recommends.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum is sharing activities and videos on their Facebook page as part of their Virtual Peoria Riverfront Museum  On their website, they state:  “Our virtual museum will draw on the resources of our staff, collection and exhibitions as the nation’s only museum of art, science, history and achievement to make content accessible on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, our website and through email. We will continue to partner with more than 220 like-minded cultural, educational and civic organizations regionally and nationally.”

The Peoria Park District has closed all of their facilities, however their trails are open (please still practice social distancing while on the trails) plus they have set up a Stay Active page on their website with ideas of activities that you and your family can do during the Stay-at-Home order.  They are also posting other activity ideas on their Facebook page.

A new website, LocalOPAL, which is an acronym for “Outdoor Playing And Learning” is a new online resource to help find publicly accessible outdoor places in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall and Woodford counties.  Created by University of Illinois master naturalist Julie Robinson, she hopes to encourage people to enjoy local parks and other outdoor facilities.

Take the Sculpture Walk Peoria Virtual Tour by using the OTOCast App featuring a self-guided audio tour with recordings by the artists who created the pieces. The 2019 Walk is located in downtown Peoria on Washington Street from Liberty to the Bob Michel Bridge and closes at the end of April. Picutred is People’s Choice Award Winner Liz Johnson with her sculpture, Prometheus I.

While the COVID19 Stay-at-Home is a necessary precaution for the state to help reduce the spread of the virus, it can be an opportunity for learning and family bonding.  Make sure to enter our COVID19 Stay-at-Home home video contest and encourage your friends & family to vote daily for your video.  The winner will receive a prize package of passes to various Peoria Park District Facilities valued at over $100!


Art of the Brick Exhibit Showcasing Unique Lego Brick Sculptures

LEGO has been reimagined and improved beyond simple creations from childhood at the Peoria RiverFront Museum. The featured “Art of the Brick” exhibit hosts full-sized 3D statues such as a 20-foot long T-rex as well as re-imagined iconic works of art such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Certainly, the grown-up version of these classic plastic bricks cannot be missed.

The intricacy of even one LEGO brick masterpiece is truly stunning. However, some may be surprised to learn the amount of work which goes into creating an individual piece such as the T-rex which is comprised of over 80,000 individual pieces.  It’s certainly not child’s play.

“Each sculpture has its own obstacles and challenges,” says the exhibit’s artist, Nathan Sawaya. “For example, creating a human form out of rectangular bricks requires special attention to detail to get the curves of the human body formed from thousands of little corners.”

Designed to inspire ingenuity and creativity, the stunning exhibit has been shown worldwide. From Los Angeles, London and Moscow, it has certainly become a global affair. Now in Peoria, “Art of the Brick” allows Peorians to experience the creativity of the world’s first major museum exhibit to solely feature the plastic bricks as its art medium. Now, it’s the chance of a lifetime to enjoy classic artworks done in a whole new way.

One gallery within the exhibit showcases the innovative, multimedia collection of LEGO brick-infused photography produced in tandem with award-winning photographer Dean West.  You’ll also be able to discover your inner artist, engineer or architect in the hands-on, interactive LEGO brick gallery “The Science of the Brick,”. Featuring building challenges, games and open play spaces, you can create your own masterpieces, build a maze out of LEGO bricks, design a brick race car and more.

“Mastering techniques from impressionism to classical sculpture in brick form allows them to be more relatable to audiences,” says Sawaya. “Even to people who wouldn’t usually set foot inside an art gallery.”

The Art of the Brick:  The World’s Most Elaborate Display of LEGO Art will be on display through September 2. Admission for members is free and general public tickets are $18 adults, $17 students and seniors 60+ and $16 youth 3-17. Tickets can be purchased along with more information at www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.com