Graphic design professor takes spring 2012 sabbatical in Manaus, Brazil

August 30, 2012

In March 2012, Riverside Community Church in Peoria, IL sent a mission team to the Brazilian Amazon.   Gary Will, Professor in the Department of Art, Bradley University, was invited to join the trip.  Equipped with just a 'point and shoot' camera, his main purpose was to visually narrate the characters' of Manaus, the rainforest and, in particular, the Satere' people themselves.

Show runs:  September 14-28,  Reception Friday, September 14, 6:00-8:30 pm

Prairie Center of the Arts, Warehouse Gallery One, 1506 SE Washington St., Peoria, IL  61602

The link to Gary Will and a story featured in the Arts Plus section of the September 9, 2012 Journal Star can be found at:

Printed with permission by Journal Star

By Ivy Hillman '12

When Gary Will, associate professor of graphic design, got the opportunity to go to the Brazilian Rainforest, during his sabbatical, he knew that he had to take it.

Having been inspired by a colleague from Chicago who had previously worked and documented poverty in Africa, Will spoke with Pastor King of Riverside Community Church in Peoria. The Church takes a humanitarian mission trip to Brazil almost every year and they agreed that Will could accompany their spring 2012 team, helping out with the everyday mission activities, such as helping to construct the new village church, but primarily acting as an observer, visually narrating through photographs, the Sater̩ Mauw̩ tribe and their environment.

"I didn't want to take a bag full of camera equipment, although a couple of people in the team had them," Will said. Instead, he chose to take a Panasonic Lumix FZ35 'point and shoot' camera and an iPad that he used to upload photos to his blog every night, as long as WiFi was available.

The journey itself was a big part of the adventure. First stop was the city of Manaus, at the part of the Amazon river where the dark Rio Negro and yellow Salimoes meet, but famously don't mix, to pick up supplies. The remote village (Vila Nova) itself was almost two days boat ride with the mission team needing the permission from the Chief to visit. Will said "the whole experience of waking up in a hammock to the sound of the wildlife and looking out at the rainforest every morning was incredible."

The result of Will's trip will be a solo photography exhibition this fall at the Prairie Center of the Arts in downtown Peoria. He will be showing a selection of 30" x 22.5" photographs along side  a print-on-demand book titled 'The Sater̩ Mauw̩e - A visual narration by Gary N. Will' full of additional images from his trip. Will also intends to get one of his graphic design classes involved next semester, by collaborating with one of the Brazil based humanitarian organizations in the design of easy to understand posters for the water filtration devices used by the indigenous communities based in the Brazilian rainforest.

"The exhibition reception will be a great opportunity to present the great work these mission trips do through my visual documentation of the people and culture of the Brazilian Rainforest," Will said.

But perhaps the most rewarding part of Will's trip was the new understanding he gained of life in the Amazon.

"Despite the obvious poverty and hardship, and the fact that the spoken language was a mix of Portuguese, Spanish and their own  - there was a general sense of peace out in the rainforest," Will said. "The Sater̩ Mauw̩ people were an amazing people."

Will is planning on accompanying Riverside on another trip in 2014, when he would like to document individual stories and accompany them with more imagery.

"I would go back in a heartbeat. I recommend this kind of trip to everyone," Will said.

url for the Prairie Center of the Arts gallery:

url to the book that will accompany the exhibition: