Bringing the warehouse district back to life with art

By Chad Weber

August 3, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 1:31 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The warehouse district has been a big topic of discussion in downtown Peoria lately. And one local artist is trying to bring the district back to life through art.

First Friday's are popular around the country.

The monthly event invites the public to come out on the first Friday of each month to view local art, listen to live music, and fellowship with local art lovers.

"Hopefully it creates an energy and kind of a buzz and gets more people coming in this area," said founding member of the event Jacob Grant. "And then maybe after that, the city and other entities, developers will see the importance of it and hopefully revitalize this area."

Jacob Grant owns Wheel Art Pottery Studios located in the old Mill building off Washington Street.

With 12 Peoria art studios involved, six are in the warehouse district.

And the collaborative art event is only becoming more popular.

"It's just been building," said Grant. "We got a bunch of people in the beginning and we've just continued to get more and more and we do see new faces each new first Friday."

And it's not just good for the studios, the local artists are benefiting as well.

"This has been great. This is exposure that we didn't expect," said local artist Susie Mathews. "It's like a windfall and we love it."

"It just gets a lot of people in the area to see my work that wouldn't see it otherwise and it gives me space to make it in as well," said resident artist of Wheel Art Pottery Studios Jacob Miller.

Grant hopes there is one more benefit, that once people come out, they will realize the cultural potential of the warehouse district.

"I think people are a little afraid to come out to the warehouse district because it does look kind of dilapidated," said Grant. "But once you get into the area you start to notice the wonderful beauty."

Beauty Grant hopes will translate from art to a community.

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