Peoria’s celebration of the art and science of life, showcased as a Discovery Forum at Peoria’s Civic Center April 29, began with images of historic Peoria: early settlers, steamboats, distilleries, the ag lab, Bradley and ICC campuses, hospitals, and crawler tractors. A video collage included drawings, photos, and early film. The past was prologue and serves as the foundation for Peoria’s next steps.

The future can be what we make it. And it’s coming at an exponentially increasing pace.
The interweaving of art and science encourage visionary collaborations, such as those embodied in the sponsoring groups. Peoria NEXT, ArtsPartners, and several colleges of Bradley University are figuratively reshaping the landscape here-as has been done through time by glaciers, wind, water, mound builders, and earthmovers.

A speaker challenged the audience to innovate-to make sure we’re solving problems rather than simply improving the means to unimproved ends. The head of the National Library of Medicine extolled the library network that’s made computers and the Internet accessible in communities across the country.

Peoria’s 125-year-old public library system, a pacesetter in its own right, will be the focus of trolley tours that will take place Wednesday afternoons during August. New this year, the tour on a CityLink history trolley will include Peoria’s Carnegie-funded library in Lincoln Park, as well as others throughout the city.

Starting May 26, opportunities to learn about Peoria’s role in history resume on CityLink’s History Trolley Tours, with certified guides from the Peoria Historical Society. The schedule is available from CityLink, or on the Web at www.ridecitylink.org.

Four other trolley routes cover different aspects of Peoria’s history, including the popular River City Tour of downtown, the east and west bluffs, and Grandview Drive; Springdale Cemetery; the naughty-to-nice transformations that won Peoria’s three-time designation as All-America City; and Old Peoria and the Judge, a tour that includes a visit to Peoria Historical Society’s Flanagan House Museum, which reopened in May. Tickets can be reserved at Kelleher’s Irish Pub on Water Street or Harp & Thistle in Peoria Heights, where the various tours will begin.

Along Main Street on Peoria’s West Bluff, the construction of Peoria NEXT’s new incubator campus will be seen, not far from a building whose fading sign-in the midst of Peoria’s early auto row-advertises repainting for your electric brougham.

The High Street mansions recall not only the role of Joseph B. Greenhut in establishing the Distillers and Cattle Feeders Trust that controlled whiskey prices for the industry, but also the Japanese scientist Jokichi Takamine, whom Greenhut brought to town to research new processes for fermenting. Takamine, who lived near CityLink’s current offices on NE Jefferson, later achieved success in pharmaceuticals, isolating adrenaline. The GAR Hall on Hamilton Street carries the inscription "Greenhut Memorial," while Greenhut’s gift of a marble sculpture by Peorian Fritz Triebel is now displayed in Peoria’s City Hall.

Art and science continue to be linked, often embodied in distinctive individuals. Through the end of May, the Peoria Historical Society’s 41st Annual Rennick Juried Art Show will be exhibited on the second floor of the Peoria Public Library. The show honors the society’s first president and recognizes artists whose work best depicts some aspect of area history.

The Discovery Forum’s day-long agenda brought stimulating, world-class speakers. They focused on evolutionary technology that continues to extend and improve life; the applications of information technology that’s made information-particularly health information-accessible to patients and their families; innovative assistive technology providing breath, mobility and hope; and the vital importance of all children learning academically, socially, culturally, and morally.

The challenges of inadequate financing caused the Duryea brothers to relocate multiple times as they sought to continue building automobiles. Changing business relationships drove earth-moving genius R.G. LeTourneau to relocate to Texas, where he continued to innovate and founded a university.

The Peoria Civic Federation is developing financial muscle and, recognizing the power of prizes, used the Discovery Forum as the venue for awarding the 2005 Peoria Prize for Creativity. Back in 1926, motivated by the Orteig Prize, Charles Lindberg, on a flight from Peoria to Chicago, began planning how he might fly a plane across the Atlantic. Just two years ago, the Peoria Historical Society heard his grandson tell of the X-Prize that would reward private travel into space.

And now the world is learning what’s prized in Peoria-creativity with a global reach, combining art and science. AA!