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'From Peoria To Lebanon' is not only an art exhibition, but a fundraiser for Beirut relief efforts

Peoria Riverfront Museum

A contemporary Lebanese art exhibit is on display now at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Later this month, it'll all be sold to raise money for medical relief in the aftermath of last year's Beirut port explosion.

The idea for a benefit concert and art exhibit came from pianist Dr. Tony Karam, a Beirut native and college friend of Peoria Riverfront Museum president John Morris.

"And so he had the idea to come to Peoria and play a concert," said Joe Couri of the Peoria Itoo Society. "And he's also a big art collector. And he collects Lebanese art. And he had the idea to do a big online art auction."

Karam came to Peoria over the summer, bringing over 100 pieces of Lebanese art with him. The idea blossomed from there, Couri said.

Lebanon is suffering from drastic inflation and a collapse of its medical infrastructure. Working through the Lebanese American University Medical Centers in New York, "From Peoria to Lebanon" seeks to raise money to assist the country holding a special place in the hearts of Lebanese immigrants in Peoria, like Couri.

Much of the art displayed in "From Peoria to Lebanon" portrays a sense of despair or confusion in the aftermath of the port disaster, but it's not all negative.

"There's this one artist who did 33 drawings," Couri said. "And interestingly, there's a little bird in all of them. And that bird represents hope for the future."

Karam is playing a concert on Sunday, Dec. 19 at the Scottish Rite Theatre in Peoria. The art exhibition runs now through Jan. 9, 2022, with the art auction scheduled for Dec. 15-22.

Several of the Lebanese artists will also appear in Peoria for a Dec. 18 open house event.

Couri said there's isn't a specific fundraising goal set for relief efforts, but he's optimistic it will be a substantial amount.

"I know we have over $30,000 raised in sponsorships primarily here in Peoria, which is great," Couri said. "And we're hoping for the big dollar ones to come through New York or Beirut, through deeper pockets."

To mail a donation, send a check to the Lebanese American University, 211 E. 46th St., New York, NY 10017.

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