By Desiree’ Byrne
Photos Courtesy of the City of Peoria and Desiree’ Byrne

An explosion of the arts converges in Old Town Peoria from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, March 26 at the Peoria Arts and Cultural Festival. At the 20th annual event, community members can enjoy a free, interactive arts showcase featuring youth from 42 Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) schools.

“This event is particularly special because it showcases our entire district, and we get to see and hear what students at other schools are doing,” explains Zona Mielke, a choir teacher at Copperwood Elementary School who has participated in this event since its inception. “I ask my students to listen and watch at least one other group perform, and by watching other groups perform, they appreciate that there are other students who love the same things they do and that value their craft. They can see themselves in the other performers and they gain confidence with every performance they do. Ultimately, it also creates lifelong supporters of the arts.”

Following a temporary shift to a virtual festival for the last two years due to the pandemic, the school district is thrilled to return to an in-person offering. New for 2022, “The event will include bucket drumming, painting, digital music, a photography and acting tent, an instrument petting zoo, a chalk zone, and a printmaking station,” says Erin Dunsey, Communications Manager for PUSD.

The Peoria Arts & Cultural festival includes a full day of fun that highlights band, choir, orchestra, dance, and visual art near 83rd and Grand Avenues in Peoria. The event includes free activities for children, food trucks and student performances that take place throughout the day.

The festival covers multiple city blocks and includes plentiful free parking just a short distance away at the Peoria Municipal Campus adjacent to the Peoria Main Library.

“The city of Peoria and Peoria Unified School District has a long-standing partnership, and commitment to the arts, and this event is just one example,” says Kristina Perez, Marketing and Communications Manager for the city of Peoria. “It also serves as a fundraiser for the Peoria Education Foundation (PEF) that provides scholarships for teachers in their classrooms.”

“Arts are the heart and soul of our community, and a city is not complete without a strong representation of the arts,” says Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat. “Access to public art adds to the exceptional quality of life that we know and love here in Peoria, and it’s part of what draws people and businesses to our community. This event is highly celebrated and the perfect way to bring our community together to recognize our youth and arts community. Giving our youth an opportunity to share their artistic creations is an honor and I look forward to their continued involvement as we work to enhance and enrich our community.”

Park West is the event’s main sponsor, but sponsorship opportunities are also still available for other local businesses. “This year the Park West booth will feature giveaways from some of Park West’s newest businesses along with an opportunity to enter to win a canvas replica (painted live in the booth) of our new InfluxAZ mural by artist Lauren Lee,” says Kelly Price, Marketing Director of Park West.

For more information on the event, visit peoriaunified.org/artsfestival. To inquire about sponsorships, call 623-486-6100 or email pusdpr@pusd11.net.

Desiree’ Byrne is a Finance of America Mortgage Loan Advisor, NMLS# 2122934. She serves the local community through purchase mortgages, refinances, and reverse mortgages. She is known for her problem-solving abilities and expertise with first time homebuyer processes, down payment assistance programs, VA benefits, and credit repair. Learn more at loansclose.com/desireebyrne.