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Local Arts Nonprofit Collecting 'Love' to Save Historic Church

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Patrons of several Peoria establishments this month might encounter a brightly-colored cardboard box, accompanied by a small paper replica of a church.

The local non-profit Yaku is responsible for the so-called “love kits.” The boxes include colored cutout hearts for people to write what they love about Peoria. It’s part of a public art installation, to be revealed later this month.

Yaku says it strategically placed boxes in businesses and public spaces, including several cafes, artist hangouts and a Mexican bakery, to cast a wide net for gathering community feedback.  

“We are hoping to see a very diverse group of people showing excitement for their community,” Yaku’s co-founder Earl Power Murphy said. “Some may have never known about what we are doing, so this is also a time for us to introduce ourselves to a newer audience.”

Power Murphy and his wife Natalia Villanueva Linares purchased the Hale Memorial Church, on the corner of Main and High St., in 2011. The two subsequently started the non-profit, Yaku, to raise awareness about the building’s decaying condition and to fundraise for its restoration.   

“It’s logical, to see two people working on a project, and not seeing a whole lot of explicit advances. The building may even be a little worse off than when we started with,” Power Murphy said. “But in terms of building an audience, building an organization, building creative potential, building connections with people and countries abroad, we have always been expanding.”

Yaku has garnered followers around the world who are also interested in restoring the Church, Power Murphy said. Their ultimate goal is to convert the more than a century-old church into an international arts center.

A list of where the “love kits” can be found is available here.