Valeska Hinton

by Brenda Pagan

Known as the “mother of Peoria’s civil rights movement,” Valeska Hinton (1918-1991) helped lead the fight for civil rights during the 1960s. Born in Tennessee, she moved to Peoria after World War II to work at Carver Center, serving as director of the girls’ and women’s program, the girls’ basketball team, the college/career club and the women’s bridge club. When the City of Peoria formed the Human Relations Commission in 1963, she was asked to serve as the first executive director. During the five years she led the commission, she brought the city’s most influential leaders together to build bridges and create solutions. She then served with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for 14 years. Her legacy lives on today through the Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center.

About the Mural Artist

“I am a quiet, sleepy visual artist and plant shepherd. I paint, sculpt, and write- as well as create, arrange, and document in any way that’s available to me.” Aside from Brenda Pagan’s general love of portraiture, she is most inspired by the living world (especially in the river valley) and the overall element of balance: the changing of the seasons; the continuation of Life through death; the Shifts from night to day and day to night; and the healing that comes through connection with the steady changes of earth and skies. Brenda is a founding member of the Peoria Guild of Black Artists.


About the Augmented Reality Performing Artist

Michelle Watson who is married for 30 years to her husband Fred Michael Watson and has three children and a grandmother. She was very humbled and honored to have been asked to represent Valeska Surette Hinton, such a strong influential woman! She loves theater and to be able to portray so many characters, and appreciates the art of just transforming into someone different than herself.