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Each year ArtsPartners names an ArtsPartner of the Year. This award recognizes exemplary support and service to the local arts which has ultimately resulted in a stronger and more vital cultural arts environment in the Peoria area.   We announce our ArtsPartner of the Year winner at our Annual Meeting held each fall at The Waterhouse in the Maxam Building.   When nominating a candidate, consider the length and breadth of involvement in the arts as well as the impact the candidate’s actions has had on local arts here in the Peoria area. We are looking for candidates who have demonstrated outstanding efforts in the areas of advocacy, education, professional service, volunteer service, or funding of the arts. The nominee does not have to be an artist. The nominee can be an entity, such as a corporation or municipal body.

2018 Nominations are closed. 2019 Nominations will open in September of 2019.

2018: Preston Jackson

A professor of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Jackson is the head of the figurative area and has served as chair of the Sculpture Department.  He also teaches children´s art, painting, sculpture and tai chi at the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, on the Riverfront. Preston was selected a 1998 Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, the highest honor given to individuals in the State.  His large-scale outdoor sculpture as well as his smaller bronze pieces have been exhibited widely in the U.S. Here in Peoria, many of his pieces can be seen throughout Peoria’s Riverfront and Warehouse Districts –including his 9-foot bronze statue of comedic icon and Peoria-native, Richard Pryor, located on the corner of State and Washington Street.

2017: Peoria Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1887, the PSO presents excellent live performances, innovative education programs, and engaging community outreach efforts, which significantly enhance the cultural life of central Illinois. In addition to their concerts, the Peoria Symphony Orchestra educates youth in the community through the Peoria Symphony Guild, which has helped support and serve the Peoria area in education and outreach for more than sixty years.

2017 marks the Symphony’s 120th season.

2016: Sharon & John Amdall

The Amdalls appreciate and support all kinds of art, including music. They have championed the Heartland Festival Orchestra since its founding in 2009. Going above and beyond donating by housing traveling musicians for the orchestra and even commissioning the Community Spirit Sculpture to celebrate the recovery of Washington from the 2013 tornado for Five Points Washington, which is home to the orchestra. John and Sharon had another sculpture commissioned, Treble Clef, that stands outside the WTVP and Peoria Symphony Orchestra offices. Sharon has been on the symphony board for three years and currently serves as Secretary.

John and Sharon have played vital roles in the organization of Sculpture Walk Peoria. John serving as Vice Chair and Sharon mastering strategic planning. They helped design and develop the Sculpture Walk brochure and spearheaded the Sculpture Walk memory book. Sculpture Walk was not their first time developing ideas for print media, they were also pivotal in bringing the Central Illinois Artists Organization (CIAO) “Art Lives in Central Illinois” catalog to life.

2015: Joe & Michele Richey

Joe and Michele founded the Prairie Center of the Arts in 2003 which began as a juried Artist in Residency (AIR) program to attract emerging and established artists from Illinois and around the world. The PCA, under Joe and Michele’s care and guidance has worked to provide artists with opportunities for research and development of new work and to provide an accessible facility for art and creativity that embraces the Peoria area community offering equipment and new technologies not currently available to the general public. Working behind the scenes as advocates and supporters of the arts, Joe and Michele have supported and mentored countless artists of all disciplines through their residency program at the PCA, providing a network for emerging artists to enable them to place roots and develop careers in Central Illinois. The Richeys have been involved with countless projects throughout the community to enhance the visibility of the arts. Most recently, Joe’s vision to see Sculpture transform the Warehouse District became a reality through the launch of Sculpture Walk Peoria on June 6th, 2015. Joe chaired the Sculpture Walk Committee, and he and Michele efforts and support played an integral role in bringing the walk to life.

2014: Channy Lyons

A respected leader in the fine arts community, Channy Lyons has worked on numerous projects over the years that have enhanced the role of the arts. In 2013, she planned and executed the Peoria Citywide Celebration of Women Artists, collaborating with 17 community art galleries, each featuring unique exhibitions of works by and about contemporary and historic women artists. She is currently working on a sequel to her 2011 exhibit, Skirting Convention: Illinois Women Artists, 1840-1940, entitled Making Their Mark: Illinois Women Artists, 1940-1960, which is expected to open in October 2015. Lyons is project director of the Illinois Women Artists Project, an online resource dedicated to recognizing the work and experiences of Illinois women artists.

2013: Bob & Joan Ericksen

For 40 years, the Ericksens have dedicated their lives to the Sun Foundation, a 501 C3 organization they founded in 1973. Over the years, the Ericksens have positively impacted the lives of more than five million children and adults who have participated in the programs offered through their organization. The Sun Foundation offers over 15 art and environmental science programs.   A few of the programs for which they are best known are: Art and Science in the Woods; Clean Water Celebration; Suzuki School of Music; and Community Arts Access.

2012: Doug & Eileen Leunig

The Leunigs have been involved in the Peoria area arts community for over 30 years. They are known for supporting projects that enhance the quality of life and advance educational opportunities for students of all ages.  Through their not-for-profit organization, Purpose Driven Art, they strive to use the power of art to inspire positive changes in the world.  The Leunigs donate all the profits from their own artwork to benefit social and environmental causes. They have also had great impact in our local art community through their involvement with CIAO and helping to develop the First Fridays Artists’ Studio Open Houses here in Peoria.

2011: Dr. Jeff Huberman

As Dean of Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts at Bradley University, Huberman has distinguished himself as a visionary, a collaborator, and an energizing leader for the fine arts. He has been actively involved in the arts for over thirty-five years in the field of higher education assuming roles as teacher, administrator, stage director, producer and author. Under his leadership, the Slane College has expanded programs and facilities to include the Department of Art, Communication, Interactive Media, Music and Theatre Arts. Huberman has served on the International Council of Fine Arts Deans on the board of directors, chair of the technology committee, and coordinator for numerous workshops.

2010: Vic Burnett

Vic Burnett has been involved in the local arts since he first arrived in Peoria in 1959. In the following five decades, he has given of his time and talents to our city as a performer and director in numerous shows at Peoria Players and Corn Stock Theatre. In addition to his performances, what Burnett has done off the stage has made significant impact to local community theater. He was a Corn Stock Board Member for several years and also their Media Manager, working effortlessly to coordinate ad schedules, public relations, and other promotions for each and every show for the past ten years. As show hosts, he and his wife, Pat, offer their services to welcome patrons.  Burnett also volunteers his time as “the voice of Corn Stock” recording all of the pre-show announcements.

2009: Illinois Central College Department of Arts & Communication

Illinois Central College Department of Arts & Communication was recognized for its support of its In-Residence ensembles.  These ensembles provide a unique opportunity and cultural service to the community while showcasing the talents of performing artists in central Illinois.  Each In-Residence ensemble is a well established entity in its own right providing quality performances through their own individual style and art form.  The In-Residence ensembles include: The Prairie Wind Ensemble; The Philharmonic Chorale; The Heart of Illinois Chorus; and The TazWood Dance Company.

2009: Kathy Chitwood of Eastlight Theatre

Kathy Chitwood is an educator, artist and community leader who has dedicated herself to supporting local theater and sharing her passion with others to further the success of the arts in central Illinois. She helped create Eastlight Theatre 17 years ago. Since that time, children and adults in our area have had wonderful opportunities to experience memorable community theater performances. Through the award winning Penguin Project she allows children with disabilities an opportunity to be involved in theater and raises awareness of what these individuals can accomplish when given the chance. During the summer of 2009, Chitwood was an invaluable leader and organizer for the One State Together in the Arts Conference which took place in Peoria that year.

2008: Dr. George and Norma Kottemann

Through their philanthropic spirit, the Kottemanns support of the arts include significant donations to the Peoria Art Guild and to Bradley University allowing both of these entities to improve and advance their own positions as prominent cultural arts assets in our community.  They have been longtime advocates of Lakeview Museum.  From serving on the Board of Directors and the Collections Committee to donating from their own private collection to enhance the museum’s inventory, they have been instrumental in building and strengthening Peoria arts.

2007: Nita Sunderlund

Nita Sunderland is an educator at Bradley University as well as a world renowned artist. In addition to her many years of teaching and mentoring, she has created a vast catalog of her own highly regarded works.  Her sculptures are found throughout our region and beyond.  Bradley University’s campus is ornamented by two notable pieces, “Split Figure: Woman I” and “Birds of Prey.”  The grounds of the former Lakeview Museum proudly display the work “People.” Sunderland has also contributed to our community through her expertise of restoring and recovering treasured pieces of art which have been damaged by time and the elements. Through her talents and efforts she has preserved many local works for the enjoyment and enrichment of future generations.

2006: Sally Page

Considered the “Mother of Lakeview Museum” Page was a leader among a group of individuals whose vision was to create a vibrant arts and sciences atmosphere in central Illinois.  After successfully raising funds and working diligently to fulfill the group’s desire, the dream was realized when Lakeview Museum opened its doors in 1965. Page continued to help establish Lakeview Museum as a first-rate institution by working with others to create the Pegasus Society, whose major donors underwrite gallery exhibitions, and the Renaissance Society, which receives significant charitable gifts annually. In 1978, Page was one of the first recipients of the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Illinois, which Governor James Thompson described as “the highest honor the state can bestow in the arts, presented in recognition of outstanding contributions to Illinois’ cultural life.”

2005: Peoria Park District

From concerts at the Amphitheatre and Art Fairs at Forest Park Nature Center to Community Children’s Theatre performances and dance classes at the Franciscan Recreation Center, the Peoria Park District offers endless opportunities for Peorians of all ages to engage in the arts. With a rich history going back over 100 years, the Park District has been continuously connecting members of our community with arts and cultural offerings that enrich the lives of young and old alike. The Peoria Park District is an irreplaceable entity in our community that harmoniously partners with the arts in many different ways to culturally enhance the lives of those who live in the Peoria area.

2004: WTVP – 47

From airing Public Service spots that promote all of the arts events playing in the central Illinois area to producing in-studio vignettes of local arts groups performances, WTVP-TV showcases the arts every single day, on and off, all day long. The station’s commitment to the arts by promoting the arts through inspirational, educational and creative ways is unparalleled.

2003: Arts Alive! Magazine published by Central Illinois Business Publishers

From 1996 to 2005, Arts Alive! magazine was devoted to showcasing the wealth and depth of arts activities in the Peoria area, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of artists and arts leaders. In 2006, Arts Alive! was upgraded and transformed into Art & Society magazine, a full-color, glossy publication which continues to highlight the area’s arts scene, culture and quality of life.

2002: Jim Thrush

As a businessman and patron of the arts, Jim Thrush worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support nearly a dozen arts organizations. He was instrumental in the expansion of the Peoria Ballet and a driving force behind several local history websites. Through his purchase and preservation of the historic Prairie Building, he supported the arts community by hosting numerous fundraisers for the Peoria Ballet, Opera Illinois, Peoria Symphony Orchestra and more. His building was also the home of Prairie Folklore Theater and the Prairie Life Series, a celebration of art, poetry, history and ecology.

2001: Jim Maloof

The very first ArtsPartners of the Year was Jim Maloof, former Peoria mayor and a beloved figure in the community. A strong advocate for music, dance and the arts during his time as mayor, Maloof lent his business expertise to the Peoria Ballet to bring the organization into a new era. As president of the board of directors, he oversaw the transformation of the Ballet into a real presence in the Peoria-area arts community, taking it to new heights and record audiences.