One of the newest draws for kids and teens on the riverfront is inPlay at the Maxam. It’s fitting, then, that CEO Michael Stessman asked a group of local high school students to contribute their talents to pillars on the complex’s main floor.

The project manager for the undertaking was Dianne Heppe of Evolutions. "She’s a local artist heavily involved with the tri-county area schools, working with the high schools’ art departments," Stessman explained. "The painters included roughly 100 kids from local schools such as Pekin, Woodruff, Washington, Limestone, Richwoods, East Peoria Academy, Peoria Alternative, East Peoria High School, and Morton High School."

He said the idea to incorporate young artists evolved early on. "Our design team came up with the idea in an attempt to identify with the local market. We gave them space parameters, but they had creative license to do with the columns what they pleased. Creativity and imagination were highlighted with this project. We didn’t approve the designs before the kids started; each high school controlled the look."

Stessman’s team contacted local art teachers, describing the project they had in mind. "Each school brought a design tied to their school slogans or mascots. All of the columns are different because art teachers handled it as a class project."

The inPlay team also worked with the instructors in choosing the students who would participate. "It was an incentive basis; students had to earn the right to participate. And that incentive basis was driven by the schools’ art teachers."

The combined efforts of all of these students and teachers from across central Illinois resulted in more than a dozen unique pillars. "The finished products include 13 painted columns on the first floor of the inPlay gaming room. This area was chosen because of the affiliation with the younger kids, as well as the visibility of the foyer entrance," Stessman said.

He said the time frame for the seemingly-complex project was actually quite short. "They began the process at the beginning of February and finished in mid-March, just in time for the opening."

Formerly the Kirby Risk building in downtown Peoria, the Maxam is currently home to five entities-with the capability to house as many as eight separate venues. The Maxam is a lifestyle center offering sports, business, family fun, social events, and dining under one roof, Stessman explained. "It’s a true community structure. Generations of individuals come together to eat at our 16,000-square-foot restaurant and play games and celebrate birthdays with inPlay. Others conduct meetings and conferences in Maxam Business and live in Maxam Quarters."

The student-designed columns act as an entrance to all of the venues housed at Maxam. "inPlay serves as the front door to the Maxam house by providing the ultimate entertainment complex of video, virtual, and interactive games. Upon opening the door to the Maxam, one can truly see how much of a home it is. It’s a place where people gather to eat, drink, and celebrate life. To enjoy the skyline, people elevate to the rooftop cocktail patio, Aloft. To socialize with friends after work or on the weekends, drinks are enjoyed at the inZone sports bar. At Forte, people gather to celebrate nuptials, dances, charity events, banquets, and elegant occasions. Future plans could allow for an underground night club called Stavos, a cigar bar named The Drawing Room, and other ventures."

The student-painter project will be repeated for at least two future developments at Maxam, with Heppe again working closely with the project. An as-yet-unnamed billiard room in the basement of the complex will be tackled this fall, and a spa on the fourth floor will be painted next year. Stessman explained the additional collaboration was a natural choice given the success of the first endeavor. "We were truly amazed with the results. The feedback has been wonderful; we’ve had nothing but positive remarks. The designs and the creativeness were incredible." AA!