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Teaching a new experience for McClure library branch's first 'artist-in-residence'

Alexa Cary
Peoria Public Library
Alexa Cary

Alexa Cary is now at work as the Peoria Public Library McClure branch's first "artist-in-residence."

A grant led to the creation of the job role earlier this year. Sarah Couri, McClure branch manager, said she already knew Cary from the 2021 Art in the Park series.

Cary is a photographer, and a co-founder of the Peoria Guild of Black Artists.

"A lot of my photography deals with self-identity and playing around with just kind of magical topics, or just kind of more supernatural," she said. "But definitely, I would say more exciting, pretty much showing like the banality of life, but being more exaggerated."

Cary officially started as the McClure branch's artist-in-residence on March 1. The role involves hosting "office hours" to give amateur artists feedback on their work, as well as teaching art classes for adults and teenagers.

"We had a dialogue. And we just kind of talked about what art can bring, with different things that people don't expect with photography," she said, noting that photography can go far beyond just traditional portraits.

It's Cary's first big foray into teaching.

"This is definitely branching out of my comfort zone, getting to work with teenagers and just anyone else," she said.

Couri said the program is going well so far.

"I think what's really exciting about the library is that it just gives people a chance to play, and I think that play is how we do our best learning and our most meaningful learning," Couri said. "And at the public library, you get to come in and you get to play for free. You know, it's just readily available for you to pick up and take a camera and start clicking away and just see what you make out of that. There's no pressure, there's no grades. There's just playing and trying and learning that way. And I think that's really valuable."

Couri said she'd eventually like to create an in-house studio space for the artist-in-residence, though she said the library's small space might make that a challenge.

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