Perryville has been recognized for its efforts in the arts.
The city was recently named the 2024 Creative Community by the Missouri Arts Council. The award recognizes a community that uses the arts to promote economic growth and to attract tourism, businesses, or residents.
“I’ve been asked for several years to apply for this because Perryville is doing a lot of good stuff. Perry County Heritage Tourism Director Trish Erzfeld said. “The city really open to having the arts displayed around the area. It’s fantastic and awards like this make me really proud.”
Erzfeld credits city leaders for investing time, money, and energy into the arts and tourism divisions.
“We have just grown enough now,” Erzfeld said. “We didn’t have a tourism department seven years ago. It’s been through tourism, that we have been able to tap into some of these things. whether it’s been bicycling, and other events. We have just gotten to that point there we can apply for and win awards like this.”
In 2015 the City of Perryville made the step to create a tourism division to promote all things unique and special about Perry County. Funded 50/50 by the City of Perryville and the Perry County for the first four years, the department started promoting itself professionally as Perry County Heritage Tourism. Beginning with no marketing budget, the growth efforts consisted of writing free articles for publications, grant opportunities, a whole lot of free Facebook, and partnering with those both public and private in the county to accomplish projects that most communities twice the county’s size wouid not have been able to do. Since 2020, the tourism office has been financially a self-sustaining division of Perry County Economic Development because of the transient tax passed in 2019.
Erzfeld was hired in June 2015 to fill the tourism director position and has grown not only tourism awareness in Perry County but through her innovative efforts has introduced, inspired, and sustained several public art programs uniting Perry County residents and engaging them in unique ways to bring art to the city and county. These efforts are also bringing new and repeat visitors to the area to enjoy history, science, and nature, all using public art.
Prior to 2015, the City Administrator identified that the City of Perryville had no public art through a citywide inventory of assets needed to predict future economic growth and community wellness. Over the past five years through the efforts of the Perry County Heritage Tourism, the city, and the county now, can boast several public art accomplishments of murals, sculptures, and most recently a newly formed art council group which the city has not had for more than 20 years.
Tourism has introduced its community to and created two high quality pop-up art shows. ln 2016, Painting the Midwest: Selections from the Collection of Timothy and Jeanne Drone featuring over $1.5M of fine art that brought people to Perryville and struck an interest with art collectors from as far away as New York City. The 2017 Painting the Midwest: First Inhabitants was roughly a $3M exhibit paired with authentic Native American artifacts giving the visitors an opportunity to see that artifact up close and then seeing it in a painting scene to bring the viewer closer to the experience. Several schools bused students to see the shows touring the exhibits, having conversations with the collector, and watching artist demonstrations.
In 2018, Erzfeld started the Perry County Barn Quilt Trail with 27 locations and since has grown to include over 69 locations spanning three counties in Southeast Missouri. Linking these rural farms to the Barn Quilt Trail has brought these rural farmers together with much pride in being a part of an art trail.
In 2019, in the height of the pandemic, tourism started commissioning murals for their historic downtown as a way to give people something to do while everyone was encouraged to social distance. It brought interest in art and peace to our community during the pandemic as many would drive by or park in the parking lot across the street in their cars and watch the artist paint. Today, Perryville has four large murals in our downtown and two smaller murals at the Perryville Splash Pad.
The Charles Lindbergh Historical Marker is a piece of art designed specifically to draw attention to our connection and history with the famed pilot and expanding our sculpture trail. The 9’ tempered glass lets visitors dream or imagine with this piece. To go back in time or reflect how far aviation has come in our community.
“Trish’s efforts on behalf of our community have been repeatedly recognized at the highest levels,” Perryville City Administrator Brent Buerck said. “She has won numerous awards for her innovations and we are fortunate to have her on our team.”
Perry County Heritage Tourism continues to bring more art to our city. Erzfeld is currently working on two new murals designs with business owners. The director has begun the process of acquiring a juror and preparing the advertisements for the call to artists for the 2024 Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit.