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Portrait Series To Showcase Notable Peorians In Downtown Windows

Portraits of Peoria.jpg
Big Picture Peoria
Portraits of Dr. Romeo B. Garrett and Betty Friedan will be officially unveiled Saturday in the windows of the Central Building at the corner of Main and Adams in downtown Peoria. The portraits are the first two of eight in a series titled "Portraits of Peoria," presented through a collaboration between Big Picture Peoria, Discover Peoria, and ArtsPartners of Central Illinois.

The first two entries in a series of large-scale historical portraits going up in the windows of a prominent downtown Peoria building will be officially unveiled Saturday morning.

A collaboration between Big Picture Peoria, Discover Peoria, and ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, the “Portraits of Peoria” initiative features renderings of notable figures from the city’s past to the Central Bank building at the corner of Main and Adams streets.

Big Picture Peoria co-founders Doug and Eileen Leunig said the series will honor the contributions of Peorians who championed equity and diversity, beginning with women’s rights activist Betty Friedan and Dr. Romeo B. Garrett, Bradley University’s first Black professor.

“Both of these people really did fight for equality for all people,” said Eileen Leunig. “They are very highly representative of equity in the developments in Peoria.”

Mayor Rita Ali will be the featured speaker at Saturday’s 10 a.m. unveiling ceremony. Doug Leunig said the portraits will brighten up the area vacated by a Busey Bank branch.

“They’re no longer in there, so these windows were big openings into an empty space,” he said. “So we decided that this would be the perfect way to put art up to be a little bit more enticing and beautifying downtown area, giving people something to look at rather than an empty window and discover Peoria."

Eileen Leunig agreed it’s an ideal spot to showcase civic pride.

“The focus was knowing that as we come out of the pandemic and we all need these bright rays of hope, that we wanted to focus on revitalization and rediscovery,” she said. “Let's look at our community and all that we had offer.”

Peoria-based artists Kevin J. Bradford and Eliza von Zerneck respectively produced the portraits of Garrett and Friedan and will attend the Saturday unveiling. Eileen Leunig said the series eventually will add six more contemporary portraits, and each will feature an interactive element.

“There is a QR code on the sign on the building which when somebody accesses the code, it goes to the Big Picture website which has information about each of the people portrayed as well as the information about the artists,” she said.

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