With funding from an Extension Collaboration Grant, the Central Illinois’ Cultural Assets: Mapping Resources, People and Meaning to Boost Community and Economic Vitality project was conducted in Peoria to foster reflection and connection across the city’s cultural ecosystem to identify strengths and opportunities, serve as a model for other communities, and to provide cartographic products based on the research of the community’s cultural assets: geospatial maps, videos, and reports.

The project was designed to be inclusive, both in process and perspective. In addition to geospatial mapping, the mapping process used video-based, iterative interviews to capture individuals’ reflections to curate a holistic vision around strengths and opportunities in Peoria’s cultural ecosystem. The interview methodology focused on engaging underrepresented stakeholders, and on using an iterative process of listening, capturing community thoughts, sharing those thoughts through video, and listening to responses via individual conversations, focus groups, and reflection. The project encompassed non-profit, for-profit, third-sector, and other activity; a broad array of artistic and cultural forms and ways to engage with them; an array of artists and culture-bearers; and the variety of values and meaning that people ascribe to arts and culture.

Mural in Peoria, IL

“Hello Peoria Building,” Heather Brammeier with Bradley University students (2019-2021). Photo by Andrew Greenlee

The project has contributed significantly to Peoria and Illinois by fostering reflection and connections across the area’s cultural ecosystem to identify strengths and opportunities, providing community research-based cultural asset mapping products that can inform local and regional community and sustainability planning, and serving as a pilot project to inform and model how cultural asset mapping can be applied in communities across Illinois.