Annual Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair draws participants from around nation

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media

This landscape photograph by Thomas Sanders will be among original artwork for sale at this year’s Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair Sept. 28-30 at the Peoria Riverfront.
(Photo courtesy of the Peoria Art Guild)

The 56th annual Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair will bring 130 juried artists from across the country to the Peoria Riverfront Sept. 28-30 and add a few new twists this year.

One of the oldest fine art fairs in the country, the nationally recognized event typically draws about 8,000 people each year. Recently, the fair was ranked 75th in a list of the top 200 art fairs by Sunshine Artist Magazine, according to Shannon Cox, who’s co-directing this year’s fair with Kim Sanders.

“New this year is a Friday night opening event at the Riverfront featuring a local classic rock band and offering a chance for people to meet the artists and get a first look at all the artwork that’s for sale,” Cox said.

The Friday night opening event is different from previous premier parties that were held off-site, typically at the Peoria Art Guild facility.

“We’re hoping to get the after-work crowd to stop in,” Cox said.

The Friday night event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 28 and costs $10 for admission. The band Captain Quirk will perform on the CEFCU stage. A variety of food and beverage vendors will be on hand.

Also new this year is the implementation of an “I Buy Art” grassroots initiative created by Collecture, a Peoria-based textile company that collaborates with artists to create fabric and finished goods from original artwork.

Collecture founder Abby Gerrys and artist collaborators Alexander Martin and Allison Walsh will be guest artists at this year’s Fine Art Fair. Anyone who purchases a piece of art at the Fine Art Fair will receive an “I Buy Art” button.

Shannon Cox is co-director of the 56th annual Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair Sept. 28-30 at the Peoria Riverfront. The fair will feature a wide variety of original artwork created by 130 juried artists from around the country. (Photo courtesy of the Peoria Art Guild)

“It’s a way to encourage people to support the arts by buying original original art,” Cox said. “We want Peoria to be known as a vibrant community that supports its artists.”

The 130 artists participating in this year’s fair were chosen from about 280 who applied.
A panel of professionals with varying backgrounds in art education, history, collecting and aesthetics served as jurors to choose the top artists.

“There will be a wide variety of art,” Cox said. “We have painting, oils, leather, drawing, jewelry, ceramics, glass, digital, printmaking, fiber, sculpture, metal and much more. The artists come from all over the United States and some local ones. We think it’s important to recognize local artists, as well.”

This year’s emerging artist is Natalie Zellman, who is currently studying ceramics at Bradley University, working toward a master’s of fine arts.

“We recognize that there are all levels of artists, and when we see someone that has potential we want to recognize that and give them a boost up,” Cox noted.

In addition to the opportunity to view and purchase art, the fair is a family-friendly event with activities that are fun for all ages.

This year’s Kids Art Festival at the fair will include an interactive community mural featuring artists such as Van Gogh and Kadinsky for young artists to try their hand at painting.

Other hands-on kid activities will include a paint-it-take-it T-shirt or bag, face painting and slime making, as well as the Peoria Playhouse Destination playground and activities and the Illinois State University Center for Math, Science & Technology STEM projects.

Admission for children to enter the Kids Art Festival area will be $5.

The fine art fair will also feature a community mural for adults that will come together tile-by-tile over the weekend. It’s a free, fun activity that gives a nod to digital artist John Leben, the fair’s featured artist this year.

Kim Sanders is co-director of the 56th annual Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair. New this year is an “I Buy Art” grassroots initiative created by the Peoria-based textile company Collecture to encourage people to support the arts. (Photo courtesy of the Peoria Art Guild)

“We have a grid system, and the public is given a blank tile and a pattern that they paint, which will go up on the mural. In the past, the murals have ended up in storage but this year we’re talking about having it printed to see if we can display it somewhere in Peoria,” Cox said.

Another hands-on opportunity for adults will be an on-site pottery making experience for a small fee. Participants can spend a half hour or an hour making their own piece of pottery with Peoria artist Jacob Grant.

This year the fair directors have also invited other local organizations to set up educational booths at the event to show the public what Peoria has to offer in the arts. Participating groups will include the Peoria Symphony, Arts Partners of Central Illinois, the Illinois Art League, the Fine Arts Society of Peoria and the Big Picture Festival.

Putting on the three-day Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair requires hundreds of volunteers, and event organizers are still looking for people to help. Volunteers can sign up at and will receive a T-shirt and a free one-day pass to the event.

Food vendors will include Nick N Willie’s, Mike’s Knot Just Ribs, Moja’s, Nacho Mama’s Grilled Cheese, Haddad’s, Popcorn Heaven, Demarchi’s Coffee, Ortiz Bakery and Jane’s Sweet Addictions. Beer, wine and water will also be sold.

Performances will take place on the CEFCU stage throughout the fair, featuring the German-American Central Society, Youth Music Illinois, Peoria Chinese Association, the Underground School of Sound, Bradley University Jazz Ensemble, Peoria Ballet, the Classical Dance Academy and Peoria Jazz AllStars.

The fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Riverfront Festival Park, 200 NE Water St.

Admission is $5 for Saturday or Sunday or $7 for both days. Children 12 and under and Peoria Art Guild members will be admitted for free. Membership levels range from donations of $50 to $1,000.

The fair is the Peoria Art Guild’s major fundraising event of the year with proceeds benefiting the guild’s community outreach and programming.

For more information about the fair, volunteering and membership opportunities, visit the Peoria Art Guild’s Facebook page or website at