Photo by David Vernon
“By the time I was six years old, I was a serious artist,” says William Butler, a staple of Peoria’s arts community since the nineties. Inspired by comic books and pop art, the Bartonville native’s body of work is bold, bright and often mysterious, emerging from unplanned doodles and developed into color studies.
In addition to his work as an artist, Butler oversees one of the community’s vital institutions. As executive director of the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, he leads a hub of art and culture that features regular exhibitions, live music, artist studios, spoken-word poetry, salsa dancing, and instructional classes in a range of activities. As the organization’s sole full-time employee, he wears many hats, ranging from office manager and volunteer coordinator to landlord, planner and organizer. Now in his 15th year at the CAC, he’s been in the building even longer—having taken a studio at the Checkered Raven, as the gallery was then called, back in 1996.
- Words to live by: It is better to love than be right.
- Favorite vacation spot: Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It is hard to get to, so it is secluded. There is a purity about the area as it has hardly been touched by developers and commercialization. You actually have the entire beach to yourself.
- Favorite artist: For over a year, I have been on Instagram @williamebutler1817 and I am constantly finding new artists to enjoy. So my favorite artist is whoever I found today.
- Favorite treat: It is really a terrible habit, but I eat Breyer’s peanut butter and chocolate ice cream most every night. I can hardly wait to get at it. My favorite way to unwind after a long day is to sit down with my bowl of ice cream and laugh my cares away watching Steven Colbert. He is a comedic genius.
- My life won’t be complete until I… create an album of songs that I have written and put the songs online. I sing with bands sometimes, but I really enjoy writing songs and recording them.
- Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Ray Bradbury captured my imagination when I read “A Sound of Thunder” in sixth grade. No one has come close to inspiring my imagination like his sweet and bizarre short stories.
- What’s one thing you should throw away but haven’t? Just about everything! I have the worst case of nostalgia. Plus, I usually am able to convince myself that whatever it is could be useful someday.
- What is one of the most interesting foods you have eaten? Some years ago at Jonah’s (one of my favorite places to eat in Peoria) I saw barracuda on the menu. I had to order it, and it was delicious.
- Have you ever been told you look like somebody famous? When I was young, I got John Lennon a lot. Now I am often told I look like Geddy Lee of Rush.
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I have had so many dreams of being able to float and soar. So that would be awesome. I really enjoy sledding and love playing in snow. I own a bunch of rail sleds. It is the closest thing to flying I have experienced. a&s