This August, IGNITE Peoria will light up the region with a shot of inspiration and imagination.

It was a giant leap for the local arts community when the Peoria Civic Center suggested teaming up with ArtsPartners of Central Illinois and the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to facilitate the region’s first-ever “Big Bang” creativity celebration. The planning started more than a year ago, and has since spread like wildfire.

“It’s a celebration of arts and creativity in our community,” explains Kathy Chitwood, former Eastlight Theatre executive director, who stepped up to chair the daylong event, known as IGNITE Peoria. “It’s meant to bring out the people who are passionately involved in the arts in all forms… to ignite the passion of the arts in the community.”

“We plan to show all the many ways, shapes and forms that our community is artistic,” declares Suzette Boulais, ArtsPartners executive director. “Expect to see lots of activities and demonstrations… where people can not only observe creativity in action, but engage in it.”

An Artistic Extravaganza
It all comes to fruition on August 9th, when the Civic Center will play host to just about every type of art imaginable, from live music, dance and theater to the visual arts and beyond. Chitwood and her creative team have been hard at work for many months, reaching out to local and regional artists and coordinating a sprawling schedule of activities.

Most certainly, this will be no typical arts festival. From the traditional to the avant-garde, there will truly be something for everyone: photography and songwriting workshops, a fashion photo shoot and wearable art runway, pottery-throwing and Raku demonstrations, a breakdancing competition, and a dizzying array of activities for children. Peoria Public Radio will be on hand to record ideas about impacting the community through creativity, while a range of musicians and dance companies will take the floor to entertain attendees.

Local makers, designers and developers will share their insights on the intersection of the arts, innovation and entrepreneurship with science, technology, engineering and math, while representatives of various ethnic groups will show how “The World IGNITES Peoria!” through art, culture, food and fashion. Vehicular artist Darius Donaldson will showcase his distinctive car art, the theater lobby will be yarn-bombed by fiber artists, and an independent film, shot in Peoria, will be screened locally for the first time. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For visitors and residents alike, IGNITE offers a unique opportunity to see a broad sampling of Peoria’s arts and cultural community in one place. It will also “remind people that art isn’t just in a painting,” says Chitwood, “it’s everywhere.”

Sparking the Inner Artist
While guests are welcome to simply walk around and take it all in, they are also encouraged to take part in a range of hands-on “Creation Stations” to help inspire the artist within. “We’re hoping to spark your creative passion,” says Boulais, “so people don’t just appreciate the event, they can also participate.”

“I truly believe that everyone has an inner artist,” Chitwood adds. “I think all of us were very much in touch with it when we were young children. At some point, we might have put away our artist… But it’s in there. It doesn’t take a whole lot to reignite that passion.”

By connecting these diverse threads of arts and culture, it is hoped this celebration of community will spawn new partnerships and ways of thinking that weave the arts and culture more closely into our everyday lives. “Our belief is that creativity joins the community together,” Boulais declares, “that it is a problem solver.” That’s a cause that everyone can get behind, and it’s something the community can build on for years to come. In fact, some event organizers are already planning ahead to make next year’s festival even better. “The hope is that it’s the first of many to come,” says Chitwood.

So don’t miss out on this unique celebration of community, says Boulais. “Come August 9th, we are going to IGNITE Peoria.” A&S

IGNITE Peoria kicks off at 9am on August 9, 2014. For more information, visit ignitepeoria.com.