The Pekin Public Library has joined other downtown businesses and organizations in displaying art in the community.
The library has been collecting local art pieces since the renovation in 2015 such as the sculpture “Phenomenon” by Fisher Stolz at the entrance of the library, “Cool Wave Jazz” by Gregory L. DePauw, Lester Chase paintings of the old Carnegie Library and the Opera House, photography by various artists, and now the work of Jeremie Draper, soft glass artist and owner of J. Draper Glass.
“Libraries are more than just books and public computers,” said Jeff Brooks, library director. “There’s an art revival going on in Peoria, and communities like Pekin are getting on board with that with Fourth Fridays, so we just naturally started falling in (line) to bring art into Pekin with this blank space that was the renovated library.
“We thought, ‘what are we going to do with this space?’ We had a lot of empty walls. I had heard about the mural project and thought about these walls, especially the outside walls that are 45-feet of uninterrupted brick in some places. What I’ve seen around Peoria on the sides of buildings — I wanted to bring that here to Pekin after I heard about the project and how we can do this.”
The Draper mural is a photograph of a portion of the stem one of the 2017 Series, “Watermelon Tourmaline Pumpkin.” The original piece of art is made of glass. The mural project photographer is Rebecca Richardson. It was inspired by a gem known as Tourmaline, a semi-precious stone that comes in a variety of colors, including pink and green — the colors of watermelon.
“This image that is portrayed is really to show how soft and fluid the glass is when we’re working with it,” said Draper. “It’s the consistency of butter or soft taffy, if you will, so when we actually cut into the glass it’s like cutting an orange peel.
“But this looping of the pumpkin stem is a great example on how soft and malleable the glass is. And in this piece, it doesn’t even matter what the finished product is. This is really about the movement and how the light captures it.”
While attending Southern Illinois University, it was by chance that Draper fell in love with glass as a medium.
“I had to walk past the glass studio to get to my classes at Southern Illinois, and I was absolutely captivated when I would watch them blow glass,” said Draper. “I had never seen it before, and I was determined to take a semester course. And right when I did, I was hooked.
“I got bit by the glass bug, and it is this wonderful glowing — literally — material to work with. It’s so formable and malleable, and in the moment, you can never leave the project that you’re working.”
The Pekin City Council in 2016 approved the placement of large murals on buildings.
The mural was paid for with private funds, not taxpayer dollars. The mural can be traded out so that other municipalities can use it, and in turn, Pekin can have others come in, said Brooks.
This could be the last purchase for a bit as the library concentrates on the use of a Illinois State Library Grant of $15,000 for technology programs such as robotics and coding, said Brooks. There is a lot of “uninterrupted brick space,” said Brooks, that can be used in the future for additional murals.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin