Quietly hiding along the Illinois River in a large industrial warehouse building near the epicenter of Peoria’s manufacturing past sits the Prairie Center of the Arts. The PCA, as it is affectionately known, has been a pivotal component in stimulating the local arts community for over a decade.

While it doesn’t outright style itself as an arts incubator, accelerator, or collaborative workspace, you could argue it fills all of those roles very well. From an artist residency program to educational workshops and an abundance of open space with necessary equipment to transform your creative idea to tangible artwork, PCA definitely fulfills it mission as, “a place where ideas grow, projects come to life, and things get done.”

Still, many may be unfamiliar with all that Prairie Center of the Arts has to offer and how they can use the space. PEN spoke with PCA’s Dawn Gettler, who its Program Manager and Gallery Coordinator to find out more. As we found out, Dawn stays busy. She not only spends her time teaching area students, but also has her own studio in the space and manages the facility on top of everything else.

We followed Dawn around for a couple of days asking her a bunch of questions to find out everything we could about the space, its artists and the various hands-on workshops it hosts as well as watching all the fun you can have printing on a letterpress.

PCA Dawn

Can you talk about your background and your role with PCA?
I first came to PCA in 2011 as an artist in residence. I needed space and time to work on an upcoming solo show and I was able to focus my energies and brain onto this work by working on those pieces here.

I returned two more times as an artist in residence. By my last residency, I was asked to stay on as program manager and then to help them transition from solely a residency program to a community print shop.

Dawn & Kids

What are the features of this space that make it so unique and artist-friendly?
The equipment and space are essential, but what really makes PCA a great place for artists is the community that we’ve built up. Resident artists, volunteers, shop renters, and friends can be found in the shop on a daily basis working on projects together, advising and critiquing each other, networking, helping each other out, eating lunch together, going on field trips together, etc.

The community of artists who are or who have worked at PCA understand the importance and benefits of a friendly, productive, and welcoming work environment. We support each other and hold each other accountable.

How can PCA help a local artist get started or expand what they are working on?
Attend a free demo or come to First Friday for a no commitment experience. Meet the crew at PCA and see what we do. If you like it and find it useful, take a class or if you’re an experienced printer, rent press time.

If you’re still interested or have a project in mind or body of work to make, apply for a residency. You can always volunteer to help with an event.

PCA Rolling Station

For someone who might be interested in becoming a resident, how do they go about that process and what benefits have others gotten out of it?
There is an application process online if you’re thinking about becoming a resident. Schedule a tour of the shop and meet current residents.

The benefits are being allowed the time and having space to make work. You receive access to equipment and processes, fellowship, and are able to learn from other artists. You get out of it what you put into it.

How have you been able to utilize the space? 
As a resident, I work on projects that would be difficult to work on elsewhere. I’ve learned new techniques that I’ve incorporated into my personal practice.  In my time here, I’ve met other great artists and contributed to cultural life in the city.

PCA Josh

For more information on the Prairie Center of the Arts

Website | prairiecenterofthearts.blogspot.com

Facebook | @Prairie-Center-of-the-Arts

Twitter | @PrairieCenterArt

Instagram | @prairiecenterofthearts