- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Peoria High School students hope to touch up the look of some of the boarded-up homes in Peoria.

Twenty-one students from Scott Woodhall’s art classes at Peoria High were applying paint to their own designs for works that will cover windows and doors of six homes on Howett Street that are slated for demolition later this year.

“We saw this idea used in Milwaukee,” said Joe Dulin, assistant community development director for the city, who credited Terence Acquah and Raven Fuller in the city’s community development department for helping bring students and the city together.

Boarded-up homes can be a problem for neighborhoods and Peoria has a lot of them, said Dulin.

“It’s hard to estimate but there are probably 500 to 1,500 boarded-up homes in the city. We know that has a blighting effect on a neighborhood.

“Peoria has been demolishing 80 to 100 homes a year for the past five years. I don’t see that slowing down,” said Dulin, noting that Peoria spent $1 million on home demolitions last year and has allocated $800,000 for demolition work this year.

“We hope that the artwork will add some community pride to the neighborhood.”

The homes slated to come down on Howett likely will be demolished in October, said Dulin, noting that the students’ artwork would be retrieved before the wrecking ball lands and used elsewhere.

Students toured the homes where their work will be displayed in order to get ideas for the project, said Woodhall.

“This was a little different and out of their comfort zone at first but now they’re digging in.

“These are their ideas they’re working on to cover windows and doors,” said Woodhall of students who munched on pizza before sketching and applying paint Monday evening. Students toiled in small groups at the Hive art studio, 305 SW Water St., under the supervision of studio owner Jody Tockes.

Working on a design to cover a boarded-up picture window was a group of students that included Teja Schmitt, 15, and McKenna Seling, 15.

“We wanted to show a family having dinner together because this was a house that used to have people in it,” said Schmitt.

“And we’re trying to make it come back to life,” added Seling.

Another group that included Adaliz Diaz, Ciara Lemont, Gabriel Hunt and Mireya Valazquez, all 17, were laying out an ornate design for a front door.

Students Matt Noel, 16, and Katelinn Zeller, 15, were hard at work painting a stained glass window design to go into one of the homes.

Dulin hopes the artwork will send a message to area residents.

“We’re not giving up on these neighborhoods,” he said.

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Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, http://bit.ly/1YdXZN9

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Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com

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