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Peoria Riverfront Museum debuts Andy Warhol-inspired fashion show led by Greater Peoria youth

Andy Warhol's Endangered Species exhibition at the Peoria Riverfront Museum
Melody Konrad
Andy Warhol's Endangered Species exhibition at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

A catwalk and accompanying fashion show will debut at the Peoria Riverfront Museum on Monday, following the conclusion of a four-month program focused on teaching Greater Peoria youth the ins and outs of fashion design.

Project Fashion Show was spearheaded by program director Everley Davis, and included collaboration with the Peoria Zoo, Wildlife Prairie Park, wildlife experts, and local fabric and fashion design artists Lily Scalf and Aareon Boyd, who served as mentors for the six teams of high school students participating in the project. Art Bridges is the program sponsor.

Peoria artist Aareon Boyd
Aareon Boyd
Peoria artist Aareon Boyd

The designs are inspired by Andy Warhol’s "Endangered Species" exhibition currently on display at the museum through Dec. 11.

“Andy Warhol is like a super inspirational pop art legend. And to actually have a project that is based off of his work is definitely in my lane and something I think Peoria doesn't necessarily do a lot of, and I think the Riverfront Museum is doing a great job at improving that,” said Boyd.

Born and raised in the Peoria area, Boyd is no stranger to the Peoria art scene. He’s been working with notable Peoria artist Preston Jackson for the past three years and recently launched his own company, Twisted A-Ways, an online shop that showcases Boyd’s fabric-based projects from recycled materials.

“The museum kind of relied on the designers, myself and Lily Scalf as well, to kind of take on this mentorship for the kids. As good as this opportunity is, it's been about and always will be about the children and what they pick up from this information…my job as the mentor is to tell her steps, plant the seed and watch her grow,” said Boyd.

Leilani Taylor is a sophomore at Richwoods High School who has been working under Boyd’s mentorship.

Aareon Boyd and Leilani Taylor
Jody Holtz
Aareon Boyd and Leilani Taylor

“I was just…on social media, and I just came across a post and I was like, 'Oh this looks really fun.' And like this is the first time Peoria’s been doing this, and I was like, oh my gosh…I'd be honored to do this,” Taylor said.

The program also seeks to educate and raise awareness about wildlife conservation, something both Boyd and Taylor are passionate about — Taylor was recently crowned as Teen Miss Illinois Earth 2022.

“I used to always like, give my mom little like runway shows at home. I just like to put my own clothes together, and she'd give me a theme. So yeah, I've always just been into fashion,” Taylor explained.

A large part of the process was coming up with intentional, original designs for the clothing that will be modeled on the catwalk. However, Taylor said that actually was the easy part.

“Our team started off with making a design which is pretty easy, because you know, all of our creative minds together and then boom, we just made our design," she said. "And then, which is the really cool part, we went to thrift stores and then we just upcycled old clothes and you know, make it into a new creative piece of art, which is really cool to me.”

The design Taylor’s team came up with is modeled after the San Francisco butterfly. Boyd mentioned that since this is the first time the museum is doing something like this; it was a learning process for everyone.

“Mentorship is not a set line of rules you can follow,” said Boyd. “It's about dealing with your problem, aka the kids, and then learning how to solve that and end up with a final look that means something, that looks cool and is a showstopper. A lot of stuff goes into it…. that's kind of what I really wanted to push on the kids, because it's something you don't necessarily get a chance to think about unless you go outside to college. And myself. I didn't really get into sewing until I came back from college, and next thing I know it's all that I do.”

Youth looking at Andy Warhol's exhibition at the Peoria Riverfront Museum
Youth looking at Andy Warhol's exhibition at the Peoria Riverfront Museum

From learning how to sew and take measurements to working collaboratively with a team, the four-month program allowed participants to sink their teeth into a lot of new skills.

“Just putting your thoughts out there into the open, and then you guys can just compromise and try and put that piece together. That's one thing I've learned…teamwork is really critical in artwork,” said Taylor.

The fashion show will take place at the Peoria Riverfront Museum on Monday, Nov. 7. A pre-party starts at 5 p.m. with the runway reveal beginning at 6 p.m. Boyd hopes audiences who come see the show realize how talented Peoria’s youths are.

“I think they should know that Peoria is something to take serious,” Boyd said. “We've got a lot of creative and young minds around here. This program was really led by the children, and I think that there's a lot of good stuff coming from this next generation.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased on the Peoria Riverfront Museum's website.

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Jody Holtz is WCBU's assistant development director, assistant program director, host of WCBU's newsmagazine All Things Peoria and producer of WCBU’s arts and culture podcast Out and About.