Art at the Peoria Civic Center

Knockin' on Freedom's Door
A Tribute to the Underground Railroad by Preston Jackson

When the revitalization plans for the Peoria Civic Center were being formulated in 2002, the Peoria Civic Center Authority made a commitment to commemorate the historic Pettengill Home Site. The home of Moses and Lucy Pettengill stood at the corner of Liberty and Jefferson where the Peoria Civic Center now stands.

This site is historically significant because the Pettengill’s were active in the anti-slavery movement and provided assistance to those seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad.

In December 2005, the Pettengill Home Site was inducted into the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program of the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. It is one of eleven Illinois Underground Railroad sites in the program, and it is the only Peoria site in the Network.

To commemorate the Pettengill Home Site, internationally-recognized Peoria sculptor Preston Jackson was commissioned for the Peoria Civic Center Underground Railroad Monument titled Knockin' on Freedom's Door to celebrate the place where Moses and Lucy Pettengill aided travelers on their path to freedom. The sculpture is located on the outside of the Peoria Civic Center building at the intersection of Liberty St. and Jefferson Ave.


Sister City Friends 2

This bas-relief artwork, designed by artist Morgan Elser, features iconic images of Friedrichshafen, Germany, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin and one of his famous airships, and the city seal and masks from Fasnet, the pre-Lenten carnival celebrated in Southern Germany. The piece also includes well-known Peoria images, such as the Murray Baker Bridge and St. Mary's Cathedral.

The Peoria Sister City Commission, through the Friends of Friedrichshafen organization, commissioned two sculptures to celebrate the 35th anniversary of sister city relations between Peoria and Friedrichshafen, Germany. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis presented the first sculpture to the City of Friedrichshafen in June, 2011. The second piece commemorated anniversary celebrations in Peoria, October, 2011.



Seven Generations
by Nora Hutchinson Johnson

This airborne sculpture hangs from the ceiling in the Peoria Civic Center Theater lobby. It measures 34 feet high, 32 feet wide and 64 feet long.

The call was for an artist to create a suspended sculptural work to "fill" the 180' long by 64' high space and weigh less than 1000lbs. In addition, the sculpture was to be relevent to the community at large, who participated by large and small donations in paying for the artwork.

The design was conceived as a sort of a 'flying carpet' with patterns painted on the wing form surfaces evocative of the American Arts and Crafts movement, a significant part of the history of the Midwest, employing numerous artisans in production of furnishings and pottery.

The final patterns, however, were taken from African fabrics, patterns which have a direct correlation to designs used universally in many cultures, and to the arts and crafts movement in Western culture. Using symbolic imagery spanning diverse cultures formed a bridge between the sculpture and the community which supported the work.

Because of the weight restraints and the need for a large scale visual statement, the armatures for the 7 elements were designed using airfoil principals, allowing for maximum surface and minimal weight. The largest elements, each 25' long, weigh only 165 lbs. each.



by Fisher Stolz, Associate Professor of Art at Bradley University

(3' L x 3' W x 9' H)

Event is located on the 4th floor of the Peoria Civic Center, outside of the Ballroom. The spot is the balcony "prow", overlooking the Great Hall, and is visible from the main floor, from the entire administrative wing, by patrons visiting the Lexus Club and, of course, by patrons attending the many community events, weddings, meetings and conferences on the 4th floor.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Taylor and Corrine French Fund / Fine Arts Education and the Eugene and Harriet Swager Fund for Public Art Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois.


Words about "Event" by artist Fisher Stolz

My process for creating this sculpture for the site began by thinking about the shared ideals of the city’s vision and the functions of the Peoria Civic Center.  Brainstorming words and phrases that would be appropriate included: progress, communication, growth, our centrality in the state and region, extending reach, gatherings and celebrations, among many others.  One word that embodied many of the ideas was “event”.  The Peoria Civic Center is of vital importance as the host of events.  Each event takes work from many people with different, but related, tasks.  Ideas and effort come together, bringing the event to fruition.  These occasions result in learning, innovation, education, dialogue, exchange, energy and community building.  The list of benefits is, of course, much longer. 



Sonar Tide

Designed by architect Ronald Bladen (1918-1988) who is considered a “father of minimalism”. 

A joint venture between the Junior League of Peoria and the Peoria Civic Center Authority, Sonar Tide was commissioned in 1983.  It is 51 feet, 9 in long, 26 ft high, 4 ft wide and weighs 14 tons.  Sculpture is located on the Circle Terrace near City Hall off Fulton Street. 






Cedric the Dragon

Cedric the Dragon by Nita K. Sunderland


This sculpture, now considered a Peoria landmark, is located on the lawn at the corner of Fulton St. and Jefferson Ave.


Acclaimed sculptor Nita K. Sunderland, a native of southern Illinois, received her BFA from Bradley University in 1952. From 1953-54 she had a teaching position at the University of Michoacan in Mexico, and continued her teaching career at Bradley University from 1956 to 1988.