First Fridays have been a mainstay in Peoria for years. Artists open up their studios, musicians show off their talents, and arts lovers make a mad dash to visit as many locations as possible. When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions hit Illinois, it was just two weeks before the April First Friday. For artist Jessica McGhee, it hit home quickly. “I had a full month for April planned with art shows and educational art events, and of course, they all got canceled,” she explains. “First Friday is such a great event… and I hated that we were all missing it.”
Then McGhee—who is social media manager and customer service representative at One World Café in Peoria (and, as she notes, “a forever family member”)—hit on a concept to promote local artists while bringing some First Friday smiles to their patrons.
“One World has supported the arts almost since their opening day, from covering the actual building in art to hosting a new artist every month,” McGhee explains. When the restaurant added an outdoor patio, it started participating in First Fridays as well, hosting live artists and pop-up shops. “We’re already handing people [carryout] items,” she muses. “Why not include art?”
The idea was simple but impactful: teaming up with other Peoria artists to distribute their artwork along with select carryout orders. The reaction in April was overwhelmingly positive—they ran out of artwork, disappointing some who were not among the lucky recipients. “Which is why we are doing it again,” McGhee adds. “I’m just thrilled that so many artists are willing to donate their talents, that people have been so receptive, and that One World lets me run with some of these crazy ideas. It also feels really good to be part of a community that just wants to lift each other up right now, in whatever way we can.”
If you missed out last month, One World will be including local artwork with orders again on Friday, May 1—check out their Facebook page for details. “I think people are scared and frustrated. Being able to give people a piece of art provides a bit of joy for a minute,” McGhee observes. “I think we need as much joy as we can get right now.” PM