Peoria Guild of Black Artists partners with Ameren ‘spark’ conversation with energy murals

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:21 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - With the stroke of a brush, the Peoria Guild of Black Artists is trying to bridge the gap between Southside Peoria neighborhoods and Ameren.

Murals are coming to three locations: the East Bluff Community Center, House of Hope, and UFS building. The East Bluff mural is nearly complete, according to the artists. It will be featured in an unveiling ceremony on October 18.

It’s a unique partnership and the first of its kind according to Ameren Energy Efficiency Consultant Angie Ostaszewski. Ameren is looking into making its outreach more effective to underserved communities.

By employing local artists to create messages tailored to the local community, Ameren is hoping to build trust with these customers.

“With vulnerable populations, especially if you’re a corporation, you have to build trust and you have to build community,” PGOBA member Alex Martin said. They continued that people in those communities can sometimes be wary of large corporations.

“If you want to reach out to the community, you need to have people from that community sharing their story,” he continued. “Our trials with them, our process with them.”

They currently offer energy efficiency services to individual and business customers, oftentimes free of charge. The services are income based. An Ameren specialist goes through the home to find places better technology could be used, like smart thermostats, LED bulbs, and updated electrical equipment.

The murals are a creative spark for getting people thinking and talking about energy. Each of the three murals covers a different aspect of the community. The first, called “lightning bugs,” features children chasing “fireflies” that upon closer look are energy-efficient light bulbs. The team of artists was laying down priming paint for the second mural at House of Hope Thursday. That piece will focus on the empowerment of oneself and the community, featuring silhouettes of PGOBA members.

The final and largest mural will be displayed at the UFS building, showing off a city skyline with community members planting plants, and working to improve the community.

Using murals to talk about electricity is a unique approach for the utility company. Artists from PGOBA will also make graphics and art for future Ameren advertisements.

“This is our first project like this, here in Peoria is where we’re piloting it,” Ostaszewski said. “It makes an area beautiful, it makes it safer, but it’s also another way to make someone think about energy.”

Ostaszewski said she is personally excited for the project to be completed. Martin said he’s seeing results in the community. By acting as utility influencers, they and other artists are able to speak with neighbors and inform them of the available services.

“We’re familiar faces, we’re members of the community,” Martin said. “We’re not from a business and so they have that trust and so I’ve seen personally more taking information from our booths when we do outreach events.”

For the artists, the partnership with Ameren is giving them valuable experience with how professional commissions work.

“Those things are giving our artists skillsets that we can then take into our professional careers,” they said. “It feels awesome.... this is how you do it. Invest in the community. Pay folks within the community to work with you and show what you’re really there for and let them share that message.”