On the fourth Friday of each month from April through August, Tazewell County communities celebrate the arts. Friday evening, the Tazewell Art Loop, coordinated by the Morton and Pekin Area Chambers of Commerce and the Delavan community and sponsored by Unland Insurance and Benefits, held the year’s first Fourth Friday event in Morton, Pekin and Delavan.

“Fourth Friday is a sort of spin-off of First Fridays in Peoria,” said Julie Dodge, a Peoria-based photographer who was displaying her work at GroUp Gardening. “First Fridays in Peoria has grown so big that Tazewell County created its own event. It is an opportunity for local artists to showcase their work. I have a studio space in Peoria, but I am trying to get out (and) show my works to beyond Peoria. I do a lot of local farms and landscapes that I think would really resonate with rural communities.”

The Tazewell Art Loop consists of local businesses that agree to host events by displaying locally produced artwork. The artists come and share their work with the public. It’s good exposure for the businesses, and it’s good exposure for the artists. Three Delavan businesses and 12 Morton establishments hosted Friday’s event. Pekin Tazewell Art Loop businesses were GroUp Gardening, idunnthat Photography, Kountry Nook Craft Mall, Leo’s Art Studio, Peek In Pottery and Bond Eye Associates.

“I decided to be a host because I thought it would be good for the community,” said Nathan Schmidgall, owner of GroUp Gardening. “It’s a good way to show off our local artists’ skills and get people moving around downtown.”

Tazewell Art Loops hosts like Chris Dunn, owner of idunnthat Photography, and Terri Gambetti, owner of Leo’s Art Studio, see Fourth Fridays events as a chance not only to promote their businesses, but also as an opportunity to display their own artwork.

“I did First Fridays through the Central Illinois Arts Organization when I opened my store,” said Dunn. “It’s a way to get people to enjoy the arts. Also, as a Pekinite, I’d like downtown Pekin to be thought of as a destination, and this is an activity people can come downtown for.”

“We’re fortunate that Tazewell County communities have come together to provide an avenue for people to visit the arts,” said Gambetti. “It was logical for an art studio to open its doors for an event that promotes the arts in Pekin. It’s lovely to have people come in and talk about art or my business if they’re interested. It’s good exposure for my business to belong to Fourth Friday.”

In addition to art exhibits and a chance to mingle with local artists, Fourth Fridays events provide live music and entertainment, food and beverages, and a scavenger hunt. The Tazewell Art Loop is a new organization, formed in May 2017, and First Fridays is in its second year. Pekin jewelry artist Julie Bierschbach, whose work was on display at Kountry Nook, believes that Fourth Friday events will be beneficial for Tazewell County’s business community as well as its art community. 

“I think Fourth Fridays will draw people in that may have never been inside a certain shop before,” said Bierschbach. “It’s great that visiting artists can have a place to showcase their work.”