A show of hands

The dainty handprints of schoolchildren mingle with the larger helping hands of teachers. The impressions
of fingers and palms dance across the bronze and stainless steel relief sculpture near the entrance to the new Harrison School on Peoria’s south side. The 10-foot-tall sculpture seems to wave at passersby at the school’s front door, a welcome sight for a school surviving in an economically depressed neighborhood.

The sculptures are the work of Fisher Stolz, an art professor at Bradley for the past 16 years, and Jaci Willis, MFA ’09, his former student and fellow art instructor at Bradley. 

The sculptures include 230 students’ handprints and five circles, each representing a different age group and grade level through their size, thickness and elevation. In addition to the large sculpture at the school’s front entrance, smaller sculptures are positioned at the back entryway and at each of the interior wings of the school.

“The linked rings, with handprints in size relative to the age group represented, move upward from the lower right corner to the upper left. The stainless steel arcs outside the rings represent the ripple effect the school will have in the community.”

The relief series is en-titled Imprints of Education, a reference to the impact education has on individuals and the greater effect on the community. “I value education and the progression of growth through education. This will be seen by generations and hopefully will be an inspiration.” 

While Stolz was working on Imprints this summer, he was finishing another piece entitled Event that has recently been installed in the main lobby of the Peoria Civic Center. The Civic Center hosts about 700,000 visitors a year, and it has become the primary entertainment and meeting venue for the region. Stolz created a piece that complements the colors and feel of the lobby, which was designed to represent the flow of the nearby Illinois River. From outside a fourth floor ballroom, the sculpture overlooks the lobby and a majestic atrium, much like someone standing on the bluff looking over the river.

Stolz considered the many ways the Civic Center is used in the community: wedding receptions, car shows, creativity forums, ballet, concerts, Bradley basketball games, and more. “The Civic Center brings people together, is informative, entertaining, promotes discussions, and adds to our quality of life. I wanted to create something that describes an event and how it comes together.

Fisher Stolz stands in front of Event, a sculpture he created for the Peoria Civic Center.

“The sculpture uses collective visual language and symbols with specific elements that characterize my work, such as incorporating angles and arcs together, combining stone and steel, and the use of a sphere as a focal point,” he says.

“I see the larger main support arcs as perspectives from different areas and the truss characteristics as individuals offering support. The primary limestone form references the coming together of perspectives into a cohesive idea. The sphere penetrated by the idea is the culmination of the event. The sculpture portrays the concepts of an event’s inception, growth, and fruition. 

Event should pique interest as it is seen from the ground floor level and engage individuals and groups in the open area outside the upper ballrooms,” he says. 

Event was commissioned through a grant received by ArtsPartners of Central Illinois in collaboration with the Peoria Civic Center. 

Stolz lived in northern Virginia and Georgia before moving to Peoria in 1994. He is a board member and vice president of Chicago Sculpture International. In 2000, he was named one of Peoria’s 40 Leaders Under Forty and was that class’ recipient of the Community Leadership School Scholarship. 

He appreciates the opportunity to create public sculptures in Peoria. “This piece and the one at Harrison School will involve people in conversation and will have a positive impact on the community,” he says.