Loyd Kirby, communication coordinator at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center, considers the facility one of the better-kept secrets of the Peoria area’s entertainment community.
“Our mission is to be sort of a cultural hub for the community, and we try to bring in things which will not only appeal to students, but also to the general public,” said Kirby. “We try to bring in a lot of different types of entertainment. During our Guest Artist Series, we poll our audience. Before a performance, we’ll show about a dozen videos of acts we’re thinking about booking and ask people for feedback on which shows they’d like to see.”
The Guest Artist Series is a sequence of shows held during ICC’s academic year featuring professional touring performers. The ICC Performing Arts Center, found on ICC’s East Peoria campus at 1 College Drive in East Peoria, also hosts community-based in-residence groups like the Central Illinois Ballet, the Heritage Ensemble, the Prairie Wind Ensemble, the Philharmonic Chorale, the Heart of Illinois Chorus, and the Pride of Peoria Chorus. Student performance groups include jazz bands, a concert choir, a concert band, and chamber singers. ICC theater productions are performed at the Performing Arts Center throughout the academic year and the main lobby features an art gallery.
Early June saw the last two Guest Artist Series shows for ICC’s 2017-18 academic year. Catch a Wave, a Beachboys tribute band, performed June 1, and the Beatles tribute band Paperback Writer: The Beatles Experience closed out the season June 2. The Heritage Ensemble performed June 16 in honor of Juneteenth Independence Day, a traditional African-American holiday commemorating the June 19, 1865 abolition of slavery in Texas and the general emancipation of African-Americans throughout the defeated Confederacy.
“In the past, the Heritage Ensemble has done a lot of traditional African-American spirituals, patriotic tunes, and in general have focused on songs honoring African-American heritage,” said Loyd. “They are primarily a singing choir, but they will occasionally have instruments to accompany them or incorporate some dancing into their shows.”
On Aug. 10, the ICC Performing Arts Center will host the first event in the 2018-2019 academic year’s five-show Guest Artist Series: a show by the Abba tribute band Dancing Dream. Dancing Dream is not a first-time guest at the venue.
“We had them here to open our 2015 season,” said Kirby. “This time, they are coming back with a full backing band, instead of just a keyboard and a guitar player.”
Because student workers make up a large portion of the Performing Arts Center’s operating staff, the center is understaffed during summer break. The ICC Performing Arts Center’s schedule is consequentially light.
“When students are on summer break, we don’t have them available to help with productions,” said Kirby. “We typically use the summer to do maintenance and upgrades and planning for the next season. We also like to schedule our events for when there are students on campus to partake of them and enjoy them.”
During the summer, outside groups rent the Performing Arts Center for productions or other purposes, according to Kirby. The Glenn Miller Orchestra played at the center June 5, Caterpillar Inc., often rents the building for training interns, and ICC hosts College for Kids in the summer. College for Kids consists of two-week blocks of classes designed for fourth- through ninth-grade students. The curriculum includes performing arts-related classes, which are taught at the center. For more information of the ICC Performing Arts Center, visit icc.edu/arts.