Theatre Faculty Helping Habitat for Humanity

February 9, 2011

Erich Keil, theatre arts professor, began an initiative this year to incorporate a community service oriented project into each of his classes. Keil's Stagecraft class covers the basics of carpentry and paint, so Habitat for Humanity seemed like a good organization with which to partner

Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity has been building and renovating houses for families in need.

Keil noticed Habitat was hosting a fundraising event called "2x4s & More Art Auction," which he believed would be a great learning and giving experience for his students. The auction took place on Friday, February 4, at the Waterhouse on Peoria's Riverfront. All proceeds for the event will help purchase 2x4s and other materials needed to build five houses in Central Illinois in 2011 

"Altogether my students and I, along with my colleague Mark Lohman, produced 11 pieces of art for the live and silent auctions that raised more than $300 for the Habitat building fund," Keil said.

Keil and Lohman were chosen by a panel of seven judges as the "Final Six" art pieces, which were sold at the live auction. Keil's work of art was entitled "Raising the Bar. 

"In choosing the subject for my piece 'Raising the Bar,' I wanted to create a dynamic sculpture that reflected the tremendous effort that Habitat musters up communally to construct a home with minimal resources and the resulting beauty that is created in a broad sense," Keil said. "The whole sculpture is raked forward to create an uphill sensibility to it all that makes it an active approach to the viewer and increases the sense of effort required to erect the house, as it is indeed an uphill battle for Habitat."

Greg Woith, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Peoria Area, was the chairman of the event and coordinated volunteers and staff. Woith said 68 art pieces were submitted for auction, a number that exceeded his expectations.

"We raised $4,000 through the auction, enough to buy half of the 2x4s we need for this year's houses," Woith said. "The auction was just the first step in our campaign; within the next two weeks, we will begin a direct mail campaign that will help us raise the rest of the funds needed for purchase of 2x4s."

With the partnership still in its infancy, Keil is already seeing its impact on his students.

"[My favorite part of the event was] seeing the great pouring out of support from the community and the wide variety of art that was donated, and more importantly getting to witness some of my students experiencing firsthand the good coming from their work," Keil said.

Story by Melissa McGuire