Written by Tim Rosenberger   
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:00


St. Sebastians_Night_Light_-_by_Rick_Melby_Photo_taken_by_Chris_Coxwell

 St. Sebastian's Night Light - by Rick Melby.  Photo taken by Chris Coxwell.


For almost three years, the Central Illinois Artists Organization has been exposing talented local artists to Peorians who may not know about all the painters, photographers, sculptors, glass artisans and woodworkers who work in the area.

This introduction to the arts is done through CIAO’s First Friday Tours. These free tours are held on the first Friday of each month and cover nine locations across Peoria and one in Morton.

“The initial goal was to be able to get people into a working studio,” Richard Cores, CIAO board member and woodworker, said. “It would be a place that they could actually see art being created, see works in progress [and] see completed work.”

The program has grown since its initial inception. A good number of the venues have featured artists each month who show off their work and their processes. While CIAO’s members totaled only eight when it was formed back in 2011, it now has around 66 artists amongst its ranks. Some locations also have live music, food and drink.

Additional information on the venues, like what events they are planning and where to locate them, can be found at www.ciaopeoria.com and the venues’ Facebook pages.

Tours like this can be found in cities across the United States, but there has never been something quite like it in Peoria before, Cores says. Due to the new monthly event, local artists are getting more exposure than they ever have in the past.

Many people are not even aware of all the working artists in the area, Steph Van Doren – a painter, sculptor and CIAO board member – says. First Friday offers the opportunity for those interested in the arts to meet artists and experience what they create.

“One of the things about First Fridays is that people get a chance to visit one on one with the artists and have discussions with them about their work, their process, how they work and why they work,” Van Doren said. “It’s a great connection.”

Beyond creating a dialogue with local artists, First Friday also seeks to spread awareness and educate people about the art and artists available in the area.

Another goal of the tour is to help everyday people see things from the artist’s perspective, to inspire those people to create and to keep “people interested in inviting the creative spirit into their lives,” Rick Melby, a board member and primarily glass artist, said.

“I think people tend to dismiss the importance of art and creative endeavors in life,” Melby said. “It’s a lot easier to just flip open your laptop and find something on the net to while away your hours, but to disengage with that and do something with your hands, that’s just a really important thing to do, too.”

The next tour will be from 5-9 p.m. this Friday. Maps are available at each venue and at CIAO’s website. The tours are unguided, allowing people to explore the different studios and galleries at their leisure.

CIAO does two art shows a year that gather a large group of artists into one place. The organization is also talking with restaurants and clubs downtown to make the tour a date night for couples.

There has been some discussion about doing an outdoor, French market show, as well, Cores says. It would be much more of a festival atmosphere, with artists sitting outside with their work and some food and drink.

With most of the venues being in Peoria, CIAO is hoping to expand further throughout Central Illinois, too.

The impact of the CIAO has impressed Melby.

“I just feel that we’ve laid a really good groundwork for the future here [and] for the future of arts in the city, and it’s not going to be something that we’re going to be able to just rest on,” he said. “We can’t just rest on our [lorals] and let it coast. We’ve got to keep working and keep reaching out to the community and drawing the backend and interacting with them as much as possible and hopefully enriching their lives.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 15:05
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