About us


Prairie Center of the Arts was founded in 2003 as a juried Artist in Residency (AIR) program to attract emerging and established artists from Illinois and around the world;  to provide these artists and local artists with opportunities for research and development of new work;  to provide an accessible facility for art and creativity that embraces the Peoria area community offering equipment and technologies not currently available to the general public.

The Prairie Center of the Arts provides artists with uninterrupted time and resources to research and develop new work through its residency program and print shop.  To date, the Prairie Center has provided residencies to about 200 visual artists, writers and composers dedicated to practicing and honing their craft.

Artists come from Illinois and around the world to spend between one to two months working in the Prairie Centers historic warehouse facility located in the Peoria Warehouse District.

Residents work independently, but often find inspiration, support, and cross-pollination from the Centers diverse community of working artists.

The Prairie Center of the Arts is a member of the Alliance of Artists Communities and is a 501(c)(3) Artist-in-Residence program.

The Prairie Center of the Arts was established in 2003 when Michele and Joe Richey realized that some unneeded industrial warehouse space they owned might be put to good use.

The seeds for the Center were actually planted a bit earlier, when the couple read a book about art residencies across America. For decades, the Richeys have run a successful full-service machine shop from a series of sprawling brick buildings located along Peorias riverfront. The book inspired the couple to think further about ways they might repurpose extra warehouse space into artist studios and gallery space. Determined to preserve the historic character of their buildings, the Richeys envisioned the industrial space that once housed a rope factory transformed into a vibrant art center. Visits to several art residency programs across the country only confirmed their commitment to the projectand in 2003, the Prairie Center of the Arts was born.

Today, a mere fifteen years later, the Prairie Center has provided residency opportunities to almost 200
artists from as far away as South Korea and as close as nearby Moss Avenue. During that time, hundreds of people have passed through the doors of the Prairie Center, not only as resident and guest artists, but also as visitors to its series of gallery openings, print shop demonstrations and workshops, First Friday open houses, and resident studio visits.

Robert Rowe applying ink to the Vandercook Letterpress

The Space
Cordage building where Prairie Center of the Arts is housed

The historic Peoria Cordage Company building is a grand old brick building - 125 years old and 140,000 square feet, near the Illinois River. The building served as a rope factory until the 1970s. Tri-City Machine Products, a full service machine shop, has been housed in the facility since 1974, and through its collaboration with Tri-City, Prairie Center houses the resident studios, gallery, and print shop.  See Photos.


Print Shop and Studio Space
6,000 square foot Print Shop and Studios

6-10 individual studios depending on the needs of the artists. Studios range in size and are open spaces.

Artists Studios and Print Shop are on street level and accessible during hours of operation.

The studio area has a full kitchen with lounge area and bathrooms.

Local artists may be juried for use of studio spaces.  See our application page for more details.


Residents have access to equipment, technologies and tools to facilitate the creative process. An artist using the presses, large format printers and the Imacon scanner must provide proof of experience in using the machines. Many artists prefer to bring their own laptop with the software they require.

The Digital Lab is housed in a separate room see details below. This space is available for use M-F 7:00am to 3:00pm except holidays.  Other times can be arranged by appointment.

There is a dark room with sinks, tables, and a ventilation system, enlarger and timer and poly plate exposure unit and screen printing exposure unit. Chemicals and supplies are furnished and removed by the artist.
  • Digital Lab:
    • HP computer with Adobe CS6 Design and Web Premium software
    • Imacon 949 film scanner
    • Epson Stylus Pro 4800 & 9800 large format printers. The 9800 handles 44" paper. Artists supply their own paper and there is a charge for use of the large format printers.
    • Brother Printer/Copier/Scanner (no charge for a minimal # of copies)
    • Apple Computer for internet use
    • HP ScanJet 6200C
  • Print Shop:
    • Dameco Etching press (36 x 60) has a steel bed
    • 3 Vandercook Universal 4 letter presses (Dolly, Craig and Helen)
    • Small Conrad press attached to roll around cart (Dawn)
    • Assorted metal and wood type in wood cabinets
    • Light tables 36 x 36
    • Various paper cutters
    • Basic photo plate making equipment
    • Other small presses: Blick Master Etch Model II Trident G-600 (22 x 35). Blick Model 999 Etching press (17 x 35); Rollers have been adjusted and the original beds have been replaced to make them stronger thanks to Joe Richey; Blick Econo Etch Model II press with steel bed (9 ½ x 18)
  • Screen Print Area:
    • Exposure Unit
    • High pressure washout area
    • Screen storage racks
    • Various size squeegees
    • Lots of work space 

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