Primed for Creativity

by Beth Weimer

Through hands-on art parties, Creativity Uncorked reveals the original artist inside each of us.

Above: Creativity Uncorked co-owners Sharon Reed and Ryan Rashad Reed

“We live in an explosion of the DIY era,” notes local artist Ryan Rashad Reed. As co-owner of Creativity Uncorked, Reed is helping to foster that movement in Peoria, providing a space for the community to come together and connect through art. At its art parties, guests have fun and learn basic painting techniques while gaining a greater appreciation for the talent and work required to create fine art. “Everybody wants to try it themselves,” Reed explains, “and these paint parties give them a better understanding of what it takes to make art on another level.”

Fun and Formation
Located at 815 SW Adams Street in the heart of the Warehouse District, Creativity Uncorked officially opened its doors in August of 2016. Reed had been hosting similar parties in his former studio at the Murray Building, and when it came time to move to a new space, he—along with his mother, Sharon Reed—took the opportunity to develop the concept into a small business. The front room, painted a cheerful blue, serves as The Hundred Gallery, showcasing original artwork at affordable prices, while the studio in back welcomes visitors with a large table, art supplies, project examples and a color board for guests to sign at their parties.

The sessions are a mix of education and entertainment, Reed notes, explaining how he condenses the projects into easy steps that beginners can follow or more skilled guests can customize. “We really try to make the experience as comfortable and fun as possible,” he says. “I show them a few professional tricks and guide them along the way, and when they’re done, they’re very excited and impressed with themselves—and they should be.”

Flexibility and diversification have been key to riding out the ebb and flow of the art party trend, he adds. Along with painting, Creativity Uncorked offers glass etching, candle making and 3-D/sculpting projects for guests to enjoy while they listen to music, enjoy beverages and have a good time. He also offers customized experiences, along with commissioned pieces, calendars and greeting cards depicting his own paintings and sculptures. “I’m grateful for this mode of opportunities—because not every artist has a big break or is suited for the classroom.”

Opportunities in the Arts
Born and raised in Peoria, Reed headed east to obtain his bachelor’s degree in comprehensive art from Hampton University. When he returned home, he met his wife Sokonie (now a clinical nursing instructor at Bradley University), opened his studio and completed his master’s degree in sculpture at Bradley.

As a kid, Reed enjoyed drawing and comic books, but an opportunity to apprentice with family friend and renowned artist Preston Jackson opened him up to the world of sculpture and fine art. At 16 years old, he assisted with From Bronzeville to Harlem—Jackson’s sprawling tribute to the creativity of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ‘30s—and the mentorship has had a lasting impact on Reed. “Even to this day, if I need to find some clarity or solid advice, he’s been there to help me,” he says. “I appreciate that.”


An original piece by Ryan Reed depicting Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace

Likewise, mentoring high school and college students is just one of the ways Reed has given back to his community. His first piece of public art, a ceramic bust known as “Olmec Pryor,” was unveiled by the Peoria Park District in 2012, honoring native son Richard Pryor. A few years later, he worked with another local artist, Brenda Gentry, on a mural outside of TT’s Barbeque on Western Avenue celebrating Peoria’s African-American culture, and then commemorated the Peoria NAACP’s 100th anniversary with a mural on the side of its building along MacArthur Highway. Most recently, he assisted with another large-scale mural project involving students from Peoria Public Schools and artists Doug and Eileen Leunig.

Reed would like to see Peoria approach public art the way cities like Albuquerque have done—where there’s something around every corner to celebrate local culture and inspire civic pride. He cites the MacArthur Highway bridge, now undergoing major renovations, as an ideal canvas for a colorful mural, and notes the continued need for funding and grant opportunities. “There does seem to be a renewed interest in the arts here, and I hope we can continue to build upon that,” he explains. “I’d like to see it translate to more opportunities for artists. The more artists can focus on their work, the better we can be as a community.”

Community Connections
Every bit of support helps, especially for a small business in the arts. In 2017, Creativity Uncorked received the Minority Business Implementation Grant, providing a small amount of capital and access to resources at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. “[It] definitely helped us with some overhead, making some connections and business mentorship,” Reed notes. “I’m still able to contact them for business advice.”

Reed’s mother, Sharon Reed, is co-owner of Creativity Uncorked, assisting with the art parties as well as public relations. She’s been an arts advocate for decades, well known for teaching music and fine arts in Peoria’s District 150 and at Pekin Community High School. She also founded the Heritage Ensemble and remains its artistic director, cultivating a premier choral ensemble that celebrates African-American culture and history through music. “My life became focused on tearing down walls and building bridges between all people,” she explains. “We’re very focused on how we can enhance the cultural fabric of the community, and that’s why I wanted to be involved—to make the community more inclusive and representative of its demographics.”

Grateful for the support, Ryan Reed hopes Creativity Uncorked can remain a positive artistic outlet for the community, while he continues to explore new ways to share his talent and passion. “I believe that if we keep making improvements and just keep being present, we’ll get to a point where we can provide opportunities for other artists,” he adds. Art parties are more than just fun nights with friends—their continued popularity demonstrates that people crave hands-on, social experiences. “It’s all within the pantheon of creating,” Reed explains. “And when people are able to channel their creativity properly, their appreciation for the arts get rejuvenated—especially to see that there are the outlets like this in town.” a&s

Visit createuncorked.com or call (309) 807-9694 to book a party or learn more about Creativity Uncorked.

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Comments

Beautiful coverage ... great location for birthday parties, team building for companies and nonprofits, scout troops. Very affordable. I highly recommend it for anyone considering a smaller-sized special event venue. Ryan’s art adorns the walls, adding ambiance, and his style as a facilitator is very comforting and engaging for anyone feeling a little unsure with the paintbrush. A jewel in our community.

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