Igniting the Senses

Ignite Peoria, an initiative of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, has become a fixture of Peoria’s arts community over the last six years. Home of the Midwest Makerfest, Ignite is a creative extravaganza of art, music, science and robotics, featuring exhibit booths, live performances and hands-on workshops. The excitement is palpable at every turn, but with so much to see and do, the many activities have the potential to overwhelm individuals with sensory sensitivities. Enter Sensory Ignite, headed up by local musician Brandon Mooberry, which will run in conjunction with the main event—but in a separate area for those with sensitivities to loud noises, bright lights and big crowds. Read the rest here.

Pinnacle of Her Craft

A Peoria woman is one of just eight people in Illinois to have attained Master Knitter status.

Knitting requires sharp thinking, deft motor skills, and lots of time to develop and master a range of different techniques. As a lifelong knitter, Diedre Young of Peoria knows this firsthand and finds the craft beneficial to her well-being as a whole. Each day she carves out time to knit—“regardless of what else may be going on”—typically an hour in the morning before work, and occasionally after. She even takes her knitting on the road so she has a token to remember her travels. It has a “calming effect,” she explains, which belies the lengths she went to in order to become certified as a Master Knitter through The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA). Read the rest of the article here.

The Olympics of Disc Golf

Greater Peoria has become a national mecca for disc golf.

Disc golf has become increasingly popular over the last two decades, with courses popping up all over the region. Nate Heinold, director of the Discraft Ledgestone Insurance Open and a board member of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), has been playing for nearly two decades and has competed in four World Championships. “Disc golf appeals to all demographics,” he explains. “Most disc golf courses are in public parks, so there is no charge, and you can play a full round on some courses in under an hour, if you are by yourself. And walking around a park for 18 holes is great exercise.”

With a dozen 18-hole courses within 25 miles of the city (and another 11 nine-hole courses), Greater Peoria has become a national mecca for disc golf. Thanks to Heinold’s work building up the Discraft Ledgestone Insurance Open over the past eight years, he won the bid to host the 2019 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships.

Central Illinois is the perfect setting for this premier event—“the Olympics of disc golf,” says Heinold, who expects to host 300 players from all over the world. And they won’t simply show up the day before the tournament, he adds. “They will travel here in the months leading up to the event to practice the courses and get their reps in. Some players will be in Peoria 10 days before [it] even starts,” he says, noting the positive impact on the local economy. “We are even planning events at Dozer Park and several other local establishments in conjunction with the event.”

The 2019 PDGA Pro Disc Golf World Championships will take place August 13-17, 2019 at courses in Eureka, Morton and Pekin—with players competing for a record-breaking $130,000+ purse.

 

Just Can’t Escape It!

Three local businesses offer exciting, new entertainment options for thrill seekers.

Across the nation, there’s been a boom in escape rooms as people seek out unique, interactive entertainment that challenges their problem-solving abilities. Escape rooms originated from video games in which players had to solve mysteries and interact with other players within a “location” to move to the next level. In 2007, a Japanese company took this concept further by creating the first live escape room, in which participants were locked in a room for an hour and had to solve a series of problems in order to escape.

The idea quickly took root, with escape rooms popping up across Asia and Europe. The first escape room in the United States opened in Seattle in 2013. Today, there are more than 2,800 escape rooms across the country.

Creating a fun, challenging experience is the name of the game. Why just sit and watch a show when you can be part of the act… and prove you’re the smartest person in the room (assuming you solve the puzzle)? It’s also an affordable way to have fun with friends—generally under $30 per person. Here in the Peoria area, three local couples have opened successful escape room businesses in the past two years, with hundreds of customers experiencing the thrill each week.

Escape Afficionados
On a weekend getaway to Indianapolis several years ago, Michelle and Steve Rouland stumbled upon an escape room and decided to have a go at it. “We had such a blast finding objects and solving the room’s puzzles,” Michelle recalls, “we immediately booked with another escape room company for the next day.” They were hooked. Read the rest here.

Youth Sports: Behind the Numbers

Youth sports teams flock to compete at world-class facilities on both sides of the river.

As the Greater Peoria area has become a top destination for competitive youth sports, the old phrase “playing in Peoria” is more apropos than ever. From softball, baseball and basketball to volleyball, soccer, cross-country and beyond, these games and tournaments attract huge numbers to the region—and with them comes a sizeable economic impact. With so many different events and venues, here’s a quick rundown of what plays where.

Premier Attractions
Greater Peoria offers a pair of world-class facilities that play host to major youth sports events: the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex (LSSC) in north Peoria and Eastside Centre in East Peoria. Both complexes offer indoor and outdoor facilities to accommodate year-round play and practices.

With 10 outdoor diamonds and one of the largest domed facilities in the Midwest, the LSSC hosts major regional tournaments like the USSSA Illinois State Softball & Baseball Championships, Great Lakes National Championships, Premier Girls Fastpitch Mid-West Regionals, Brad Wallin Memorial Tournament and Missouri Valley Conference Softball Championship. It is the “only facility in the nation associated with Louisville Slugger, the premier brand in diamond sports,” adds Rick Gaa, LSSC vice president. He estimates the venue will attract nearly 250,000 people this year, encompassing competitive volleyball tournaments as well as baseball and softball. Read the rest here.

Innovations in Neuroscience

It’s projected that more than 12 million Americans—nearly one in 25—will suffer from a neurodegenerative disorder such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s or dementia within the next 30 years. These diseases have lasting effects, not only for patients who live with the condition, gradually losing their physical or mental capabilities, but also the caregivers and family members who suffer emotionally and financially.

“Some studies argue that neurological conditions cause the greatest effect on lost ‘quality-of-life years’ compared to non-neurological conditions,” says Dr. Chris Zallek, neuromuscular disorders specialist with OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute (INI). “One reason neurological conditions seem so common and are increasingly present in the population is because our population is aging.” It’s a national epidemic with a significant local connection.

In collaboration with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP), health professionals at OSF IN are making major strides in research to help detect and diagnose patients earlier, thus helping them manage the effects of their disease for a better quality of life. But research requires investment.

Two retired Caterpillar executives—both diagnosed with neurological disorders—have been on the frontlines of advocacy, raising money and awareness for their related causes. First diagnosed with MS more than 40 years ago, Larry Wallden reorganized the local MS Council to ensure that local funding stayed in central Illinois, while Ed Rapp, diagnosed with ALS in 2015, founded the Stay Strong vs. ALS charitable fund to find a cure and bring assistive technologies to others suffering from the disease. Their work—and that of many others—has been instrumental in putting Peoria on the map for neuroscience innovations and the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. Read the rest here.

Building a Chamber

Maria Galindo and her brothers César and Arturo Vargas are first-generation Americans. Their father and grandfather first came from Mexico to the United States in the 1960s through the federal government’s bracero program, which allowed temporary guest workers into the country to work in the fields of the southwestern states. The entire family emigrated from Mexico in 1974.

“My father chose to move to Illinois, landing a factory job at Butternut Bakery, so he didn’t have to work the fields,” César explains. “Our family was part of a new wave of immigrants settling in Peoria.” They settled on the city’s south side, where Maria, César, Arturo and their four siblings grew up and attended school.

Today, César is an English as Second Language (ESL) teacher in Peoria Public Schools, helping the next generation of Spanish-speaking students achieve success in their education. Arturo, an artist, and his wife Carla opened Casa de Arte in Peoria’s Warehouse District last fall; while Maria is a teacher’s aide at the Valeska Hinton Center, pursing her degree in early childhood education while operating the Tianguis outdoor market in the summer. All are active in the Hispanic business community, but it was an outsider who helped them start up the Peoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (PHCC).

Enter John Lamb, attorney and global communicator for the Caterpillar Latino Connection, a resource group for Cat’s Latino employees. Lamb’s ties to the Hispanic community go back to his college days, when he spent a summer in Mexico doing missionary work. Upon graduating, he worked in Santiago, Chile for a few years before returning to his hometown of Nashville, where he served on the board of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. After attending law school in Chicago, he joined Cat Financial supporting its Latin American subsidiaries, moving back to Santiago in 2012 before transferring to Peoria in 2016. Read the full article here.

Illustrating an Ale Narrative

With so many microbrews infiltrating the marketplace—and taking up valuable shelf space in retail outlets—having a memorable package design that stands out from the crowd is more important than ever. So when Ommegang Brewery, based in Cooperstown, New York, decided to update its brand, they hired French illustrator, Yann Legendre, to bring their packaging to life.

Each ale has a fun, quirky back story, so the art needed to portray those qualities and bring them to life. Legendre notes, “They were looking for an artist who would bring a sense of movement, openness, storytelling, and wit in the art, to both honor their history and reflect a stylish, dynamic, and modern approach.”

He credits Ommegang’s art director Larry Bennett, with devising the clever stories. “Typically, we look for a story idea that may lead to a brewing idea, that will create an even better story idea,” Bennett says. “We have a great history with Belgium and American brewing, so we don’t often have to pull rabbits out of hats. Unless it’s a story that involves magic.”

Legendre created compelling characters to bring the narrative to life. For instance, for “The Three Philosophers” ale, he drew a headless man, juggling three heads. “The story evolved from three philosophers in a William Blake play, Island in the Moon, who talk about why/how/if they would do something remarkable,” he says, so he each head has a questionable expression.

“For each project, Larry gave me the story and a series of visual references or ideas,” Legendre recalls. “He never asked me to draw a particular thing. He was more interested in how I interpreted the story and brought a new layer to it. The stories are like fairy tales, with different characters and scenes, so it was really fun to work on.”

Legendre drew everything in black-and-white, and then Bennett’s team reversed and dropped the illustrations in front of a colored argyle background in many cases. “We developed a color palette that works with the beers and seasons. For example, wheat beers tend to be warm and summery, while winter ales tend to be cool,” Bennett says. Getting everything right for production was crucial, especially when working with more than one printer, as they do. “The labels are printed at one place, the four and six packs at another, and the cartons another. Each printer specializes in what they do, but they talk to each other and to me on color matching. We send draw downs, color chips, and samples back and forth to get everything in sync.”

Fortunately, their system works. The artist’s crisp renderings pop off the packaging, bringing the characters to life as he intended. Legendre is known for his large-scale posters that hang in shop windows in Paris, so for this project, he treated the labels as if they were mini-posters, paying special attention to how they will be produced and presented. “I spend a lot of time making sure each illustration is perfectly set up for a certain printing technique, whether it’s silkscreened, foiled stamped, or offset.”

 

In fact, he loves the whole production process. “Printing to me is like bringing the work to life. I have a deep relationship with this art. My grandfather was a book binder, so I was exposed to this at a very young age. The quality of the papers, the smell of the inks, leathers, glue, etc.—it’s ingrained in me and it influences how I work.”

All of these considerations have paid off for the brewery, which has noticed a bump in sales since the packaging was updated with Legendre’s illustrations. “I’ve admired Yann’s work for several years, so he was my first pick for this project. His illustrations have a strong, conceptual framework, and they convey the ideas perfectly,” Bennett n

This is my birth mother

I’ve never met her. She had me shortly after her 21st birthday and gave me up for adoption. People look at this photo and think it’s me.

She was a college student at University of Wisconsin in Platteville, studying to be a teacher. In spring of 1969, she discovered she was pregnant with me. In those days young, single, pregnant women were hidden away, so when the semester ended, she went to a home for unwed mothers in Milwaukee. Not surprisingly, the birth father wanted nothing to do with the situation. It didn’t matter. She knew what she was going to do.

Only a couple of close friends and her immediate family knew she was pregnant. People from her small hometown in Indiana believed she stayed at school for the summer, and when she didn’t return to school in the fall, her friends there were told she was taking a semester off.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to bring a baby into this world and then give her away. Nine months of caring for another being growing in your body, all the while knowing you’re going to hand her off to someone else. But she did. She made the ultimate sacrifice to give me a better life, and I’d like to think, not halt hers … but fate has a way of intervening.

She was never able to fulfill her dream of finishing school and becoming a teacher. Six months after she gave birth to me, she was killed in a car accident. She had finally gotten her life back together only to be taken in a single, senseless act.

I searched for her and spent years on a waiting list, only to discover she had been dead my entire life. I was devastated. Not because I needed a mother — I have loving, supportive parents — but I always thought a piece of me was missing. Still do. I don’t know if meeting her would have changed that.

I met her sister and mother for the first time in my early 20s. I felt their grief, but also joy. I’m the spitting image of her, so I imagine for them, it was like seeing a ghost. They stared at me and commented on our shared characteristics — a similar crooked eye tooth, and nearly identical facial features. At the time, I was a couple years older than she was when she died, so time stood still and there I was.

Several years later, when I attended the funeral service for her mother, I could feel eyes on me. It was a neighbor who was in on the secret, and she instantly knew who I was. By that time, 40 years had passed, yet few people there knew of my existence until that day. It was surreal and sweet to meet her friends and relatives. They spoke fondly of her and recalled the emotional hardship on her family after her death.

Having such a close resemblance to another person was a new, albeit strange, experience for me. “Who do I look like?” is perhaps the biggest question for any adopted person. Seeing photos of her answered that question for me, but it didn’t resolve any lingering identity issues I had. Those are still mine.

I see parts of myself, and her, in my children. I’m so grateful to her for the difficult decision she made so many years ago, and to her family for supporting her.

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Moshik Nadav: Bringing Sexy Back to Type

Born and raised in Israel, Moshik Nadav has always had an affinity for letterforms and typography. He immersed himself in graphic design journals at a young age, admiring and studying the work of the masters. While still a student of graphic design, his type designs were gaining recognition by leading international design publications and major online typography and design blogs. By the time he graduated, he had already designed four typefaces.

Nadav established his design business, Moshik Nadav Typography, in 2009, serving a variety of international clients, and in 2013, he moved to New York City. His distinct style can be attributed to his love of fashion and his adoration of the female form. Just as a fashion designer must consider the drape of the fabric on a human figure, Nadav’s affinity for sleek lines and sexy curves are distinct characteristics of his typefaces, which include contrasting line strokes, and delicate, extended serifs that entwine and envelop each other. Every element in his unique letterforms is carefully considered as he bends and manipulates each shape and tendril, while respecting the rules of typography and readability. When an entire alphabet is finished, it’s like a new fashion line hitting the runway—each letter is unique on its own, but when seen as a family, it all works together and it’s undoubtedly Moshik Nadav.

Read the full interview with Nadav here, where he discusses his latest typeface, Lingerie.

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