June AOM HeadshotAshley Piasecki is the June Artist of the Month. She lives in Milan and specializes in acrylic painting.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion? If so, tell us about it.June AOM Art 2

I have always been artistic. My love for art turned from a hobby to work when I was 17. I started painting and selling shoes. I did freelance art and painted shoes through college.

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

My recent works are taking the shape of the Mississippi River—somewhat muddy, rocky, watery, geographic and topographic looking. I work as the weekend gallery assistant at the Quad City Arts Center in downtown Rock Island, Illinois, which has a view of the Mississippi. I draw inspiration from Illinois’ geographic location in proximity to Iowa and the Mississippi River. I live in Milan on a country road where I am able to peacefully paint outside.

What opportunities does Illinois present for local artists?

The Quad City Arts is a fantastic non-profit resource for artists.June AOM Art 5 The QC Arts are continually seeking and exploiting local, national and international opportunities for artists of all mediums! Another opportunity that I have created for myself is the relationship I have built with local interior designers who use my work in their clients’ homes.

What do you like about Illinois?

One thing I like about Illinois is the weather. We have all four seasons. Illinois also has great universities, especially Northern Illinois University, and I love our sports teams, including the Bears, Cubs and Blackhawks. In addition, the history of Illinois fascinates me, and the shape of Illinois is interesting as well. The outline of the state’s borders is like an arrowhead.

What is your favoriteJune AOM Art 3 2 medium to work in?

I paint using acrylic mostly. I use oil if I'm feeling fancy, and I’ll paint with watercolor on rainy days.

Where can people view and purchase your work?

People can see and buy my work at State Street Interiors located at 905 State Street Bettendorf, Iowa. They can also view my work on Instagram.

What artist inspires you and why?

Artists Celeste Wrona and Sally Mustang inspire me. They have a sophisticated grasp on balance. Their works are abstract, watery, earthy, and have an elegant use of color.

Chicago’s Cloud GateCloud Gate more commonly known as “The Bean” has been named among the top 10 landmarks in the country by TripAdvisor.

The travel website said it compiled the ranking using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for landmarks worldwide.

First unveiled to the public on May 15, 2006, the elliptical sculpture is British artist Anish Kapoor’s first public outdoor work installed in the United States.

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memWhat better way to celebrate Memorial Day than spending time with your family and honoring all the brave men and women who gave their lives to make this country what it is? Below are some Memorial Day parades and ceremonies in the Chicagoland area over the weekend.  


Chicago is starting Memorial Day Weekend with a wreath laying ceremony and parade at 11a.m. on Saturday, May 26 at the Eternal Flame on Daley Plaza. Following the ceremony, there will be a parade promptly at noon that will go south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren.

The Norwood Park Memorial Day parade will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday and end with a ceremony at approximately 12:15 p.m. The parade will begin at Onahan School and travel west toward Northwest Highway, ending at Taft High School where the ceremony will take place.

North/Northwest Suburbs

Lincolnshire Memorial Day Ceremony

At Lincolnshire’s ceremony, Captain Raymond C. Leung of the U.S. Navy will speak at 10 a.m. on Monday at Spring Lake Park. The Daniel Wright Middle School band and color guard will perform at the event. After the ceremony, the Sea Cadets Division 911 will retire a worn American flag. Those who plan on attending may also bring flags to retire.

Lincolnwood Memorial Day Parade

The parade will begin at 10:20 a.m. on Monday at Madeleine’s Garden. The parade will start at the corner of Cicero and Pratt Avenues and will end in Proesel Park at Madeleine’s Garden, where a ceremony will be held at 11 a.m.

Lincolnwood’s parade allows children ages eight and under to participate by riding bikes, scooters and wagons decorated in a patriotic theme. Children participating must be accompanied by an adult and all riders must wear helmets.

West Suburbs

Battle of Cantigny 100th Anniversary

In Wheaton, there will be a 100th anniversary celebration of the famous World War I battle where the U.S. Army liberated the French village of Cantigny from German occupation. The celebration will include a wreath-laying ceremony, a poppy display, World War I themed family activities, military vehicles and a World War I themed photo booth. To end the celebration, the Illinois Brass Band will perform at 3 p.m.

Naperville Memorial Day Parade

The Naperville Memorial Day Parade will include 17 different marching bands and will begin at roughly 10:30 a.m. at Jackson and West Street. It will end at the Saints Peter and Paul church parking lot.

South Suburbs

Beverly Area Memorial Day Parade

Before the parade kicks off, the Beverly Area Planning Association’s 41st annual Ridge Run will take place where more than 3,000 athletes will gather to compete. There will be entertainment, food, children’s activities and special guests at Ridge Park following the race.

The parade will begin from 110th Street and Longwood Drive at about 10 a.m., and march north to Ridge Park. After the parade, the BAPA will have a wreath-laying ceremony along with a color guard at Ridge Park.

Homewood Memorial Day Parade

The Homewood Memorial Day Parade will start at 10:30 a.m. and travel south on Dixie Highway before ending at Veterans Park for a Memorial Day ceremony. The ceremony is to remember, reflect and honor those who have served, are serving and those who have given their lives for this country.

navy pierIllinois saw a record number of visitors last year.

According to the Illinois Office of Tourism, nearly 114 million people traveled to Illinois in 2017, an all-time high for the number of tourists visiting the state. Last year’s visitor totals were 3 percent higher than 2016, which set the previous record.

An estimated 2.36 million travelers visited from other countries, primarily Canada, China, the U.K., Mexico, Japan and Germany. The majority of the remaining 111.5 million U.S. visitors came to Illinois for vacation, as opposed to work. Nearly 83 percent were leisure travelers, the category that saw the most growth. The other 17 percent were in Illinois for business.

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May AOM HeadshotJesus Cruz is a barber and the owner of Cruz Cutz in Downtown Moline. He cuts a variety of intricate designs in his clients’ hair, including everything from a name to cartoon characters.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion? If so, tell us about it.

I believe I’ve been an artist all my life. I was that kid in class that drew all over his notebooks and all his homework. I just really enjoyed being able to express myself in many ways. I always appreciated art, done with pencil, markers, spray paint and just art in general. Growing up, my dad got a few tattoos, and I remember thinking that was the coolest thing in the world. There used to be this magazine you could buy at the Mexican store called Low Rider, which had this section with a bunch of artists who draw using pencil. I would always go buy them and May AOM Pic 1be mesmerized by all the art in magazine. I would go home and try to mimic some of the pieces. That’s when I knew I had a passion for art.

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

Being able to work in Illinois and start up my business here is a great feeling. I have my family and friends here. I graduated in Moline, Illinois. So this is home to me. I’m very thankful to be able to work here.

What opportunities does Illinois present for local artists?

Illinois has a variety of local art fairs that artists can take advantage of and show off their work.

May AOM Pic 6What do you like about Illinois?

I like that I’ve met people from all walks of life. It’s really inspired me and broadened my portfolio.

What is your favorite medium to work in?

My favorite medium right now I would have to say is hair. I own Cruz Cutz Barbershop here in Downtown Moline. So, cutting hair and doing hair designs is something I do every day. I’m able to express how I feel in these haircuts and have fun at the same time. I do anything from Super Mario, dog portraits, flowers, really anything in hair, and with hair growing back so fast, I always have a canvas.May AOM Pic 4

What artist inspires you and why?

Artists all over the world inspire me, but I would have to say that tattoo artists are one of my biggest inspirations. I sometimes see people’s work and get inspired and transfer it into haircuts. It’s just a very cool form of art.

Where can people view or purchase your work?

My work can be found on Facebook and Instagram. I would say that my Instagram is my portfolio. It’s where most of my work goes. You can make appointments through Instagram or call the shop at (309)230-9399.