GTH resident art exhibit at contemporary art center

Sean McGowan
Germantown Hills resident Billie Howd stands next to her rendering of one of her relatives at her home in Germantown Hills.

Walk through the front door of the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria and you will see a gift shop to your right, dining tables and an elevator to your left, and a restaurant just ahead of you.

But the third floor is where the excitement begins for Germantown Hills residents where resident Billie Howd displays her abstract, multi-media platform paintings.

Howd's artwork will be showcased at the center through Dec. 22. Executive director William Butler said he likes that Howd uses a variety of media to create her art.

For one piece in particular, she gathered inspiration from a photo of the BP oil spill. The way man could affect nature so profoundly seemed inexplicable, according to Howd.

"Nature is supposed to be this all powerful force that we abide by," Howd said.

She used PVC pipes, and organic shapes with squares to represent man-made objects. Howd said she went over the PVC pipes with a total of 10 coats of paint.

"You have to be willing to fail," Howd said. "It's a process that's experimental."

To expand, she said one of the stories she believes in as an artist involves a teacher dividing the class in half. One side focused on 1 pot the entire time and the other made as many as they could.

"The half that made more pots got more out of it," Howd said. "It's more rewarding to learn that way."

At the early stages of her passion, she met an artist named Preston Jackson, Contemporary Art Center of Peoria co-founder, who taught her what she knows about art today. She took his classes that ranged from sculpting to painting.

"He's let me into the world of (art)," Howd said.

She has been Jackson's student for 14 years. But art wasn't always something she had time for when her duties as a mother took priority.

"I had an awful lot on my plate," she said.

When the motherly responsibilities died down, she wandered in search of a hobby. Artistry was not the first activity she tried out.


You're always casting about," she said in reference to the fact that she took some time to discover her niche.

Being her teacher for the last decade and a half, Jackson was also the one to inspire her to become an artist. She began with portrait drawing as her first art class.

"I knew I'd hit it," Howd said about discovering her love of art.

More about Howd as an artist includes her favorite places to shop for supplies: Menards and Lowes. She said she likes them the most because of the industrial shapes she can purchase at the places.

In addition, Howd strays away from the use of titles to go along with her creations. She said she does not want to leave any room for misinterpretation when it comes to the theme of a composition.

"(Titles) can make people think certain ways you don't intend," she said.

The Contemporary Art Center of Peoria is located at 305 Southwest Commercial Alley in Peoria. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays. For information on Billie Howd's exhibit, call 674-6822.