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Portraits 2023

PEORIA, Ill. – ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. announced today that Dr. Mae Gilliland Wright, a native of the Peoria area, has accepted the position of Executive Director of the organization, effective February 6, 2023.

Most recently, Mae served as Executive Director of Big Picture Initiative, a local arts nonprofit whose mission is to build a thriving and vibrant community for all by using arts and creativity as a driver for social change, economic development, and wellness. During her tenure with Big Picture, she implemented and oversaw a wide range of arts programming — from the “Portraits of Peoria” augmented reality murals, to overseeing Big Picture’s Giving Voice program, where students are paired with professional mentors and paid to produce creative content, to working with local and regional partners to highlight the economic impact of the arts.

Mae has a long history with ArtsPartners, including six years of service on the Board of Directors, three of which were spent as Vice President. In addition to her visual arts background, Mae has extensive experience in the performing arts, having worked as Director of Marketing and Communications at the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. Her ties to the community run deep, having spent 13 years at Lakeview Museum (now Peoria Riverfront Museum) as an educator. She is also currently Affiliate Faculty and Coordinator of Public History at Bradley University where she teaches Digital Humanities.


Frannie Heine, Board President, notes:
“The board is thrilled to welcome Mae back to the ArtsPartners of Central Illinois team. Her nonprofit background mixed with her undeniable passion for the arts made her the ideal candidate for the Executive Director role. She has contributed so much to the local arts community, and she will continue to use her platform to advocate for the arts in Central Illinois.”

Dr. Mae Gilliland Wright holds a master’s degree and Doctor of Philosophy in the digital humanities field from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, with a teaching background in the sciences and humanities.

Mae currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois and the City of Peoria’s Public Arts Advisory Commission. In the past, she sat on the Board of Directors of Acorn Equality Fund, Public Relations Association of Central Illinois, and ART, Inc., along with various other committees with area organizations like Align Peoria and the Community Foundation of Central Illinois. Mae received the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 ATHENA Young Professional Award, which honors emerging leaders between the ages of 25 and 40 who strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, who excel in their chosen field, devote time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and serve as a role model for young women. In 2020, she received the 25 Women in Leadership Award from WEEK – 25 News. She is a member of Americans for the Arts and Women in Leadership of Central Illinois. In her spare time, Mae enjoys reading, gardening with her husband Jonathan, and catching up on podcasts.

Reflecting on her appointment as Executive Director, Mae states:

“I see on a daily basis the positive impact that the arts have on our community. They inspire and encourage, promote critical and creative thinking, and are an economic driver that both attracts and retains talent. The arts are not a ‘nice to have,’ they are a ‘must have’ as we work to grow the local economy and make our region more vibrant. I look forward to working with municipal, regional, state, and national entities to continue to bring positive national attention to the arts and culture of Central Illinois.”

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ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. promotes the arts as a vital component of central Illinois’ cultural and economic development. Founded in 1999, ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax exempt, nonfor-profit organization whose mission is to build awareness and strengthen the arts for the economic and cultural enrichment of Central Illinois.

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