Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story comes to Peoria Riverfront Museum

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A new art exhibit, honoring African-American history, is on display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Peoria artist, Preston Jackson, is seeing decades worth of artwork come to life.

It’s called “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story.” It’s an uplifting story, told through art, and it’s taking us back in time.

“This piece is 25 plus years in the making,” Peoria Riverfront Museum CEO John Morris said.

Hundreds of figures showcase the Great Migration when African-Americans moved to areas like Chicago’s Bronzeville, the Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan, and even Peoria, Illinois.

Preston Jackson said he is ecstatic to see his creation get a new home at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

“Wherever you show something like this, you think of it like a contribution to you,” Jackson said. “I came to Peoria at the end of 1972, my wife and I established a home and built a place here.”

Jackson has been involved with the local museum since it was still called Lakeview Museum.

“During the summer circus, all the events, and exhibits especially, they always included me. I felt like a member of a family from the early days,” Jackson said.

The Riverfront Museum’s CEO, John Morris, said the exhibit starts this spring. He said it’s not just to honor Black History Month but instead is a commitment to tell a story for the entire nation.

“The movement from the South to the North in the United States of Black Americans seeking opportunity,” Morris said.

You’ll recognize the Peoria area in some of the sculptures. You’ll also see some prominent black figures like American composer Duke Ellington and well-known jazz piano player Jimmy Binkley.

“Jazz isn’t jazz unless you hear. The most important thing about it is that you share it,” Jackson said.

Mr. Jackson said his imagination has always led him in the right direction of storytelling.

He said what better way of telling a story is there than through art?

You can learn more about the exhibit here.

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