For more than half a century, the Illinois Art League has been active in Peoria’s arts scene.

Originally known as the Illinois Valley Art League, the nonprofit organization got its start when a group of interested artists came together and formed an eight-member board of directors with one unified purpose: to hold art exhibits representative of the art being produced locally, inclusive of amateurs, semi-professionals and professionals alike.

The group held its first exhibition in July of 1960. Five-thousand visitors attended that first show at Sheridan Village in Peoria, and gold, silver and bronze medallions were awarded to the top artists. Today, the Illinois Art League (IAL) claims 16 volunteer board members, nearly 100 artist members and multiple exhibitions throughout the year. Though located in central Illinois, it represents artists from all over the state, and many of its founding members remain active today—a testament to the group’s staying power.

In its mission to promote and cultivate an appreciation of fine art, the league offers its members regular opportunities to showcase and sell their work, and receive public recognition for their efforts. It also encompasses several special interest groups—such as Colored Pencil Expressions, Prairieland Watermedia Society, Pen &Ink Drawing Group, Oil Painters and the IAL All Art Group—each of which meets monthly to share experiences, exchange techniques and tips, and motivate one another.

“We try to cater to all our members by offering different seminars or workshops to educate them on various art topics,” says board member Florence Gaffney. Recent workshops were held on different techniques in watercolor painting, as well as painting with oils. The league is composed of artists with a variety of skills, backgrounds and experience—allowing for a free exchange of information and ideas, and the opportunity for all members to learn from each other.

The IAL’s annual Membership Art Show takes place at Tower Park in Peoria Heights across two days in June. It offers awards in three categories and is open to everyone, from beginners to professionals. An ongoing members’ exhibit at the Peoria Heights Public Library rotates the artwork of two or three IAL members each month, and in July, an exhibit at the Peoria Public Library in downtown Peoria will feature the artwork of various league members. The league will also have a booth at IGNITE Peoria in August, where visitors can see some of the members’ artwork and learn more about the organization. Later this year, a members’ art exhibit will run from December 2015 through January 2016 at the Time Gallery inside Clock Tower Plaza in East Peoria. “We have so many talented artists,” affirms IAL co-president Jackie Colgan. “All you have to do is attend our various shows throughout the year to see the vast array of artistic styles, and the amazing artwork produced by our members!”

The Illinois Art League welcomes new members and patrons, and volunteers are always needed for the group’s shows and special events. a&s

For IAL membership information, upcoming events and other opportunities, visit illinoisartleague.com.