Artists and arts representatives, it’s going to be mighty warm around here when sunny Florida comes to Peoria in February-Richard Florida that is, best selling author of the book, The Rise Of the Creative Class. Florida will be the featured keynote speaker at the next in the vastly popular series of Discovery Forums, this one being appropriately titled Discovery Forum 2004, "A Celebration of Creativity," which takes place February 6 at the Peoria Civic Center.

Florida’s remarks will warm any artist’s heart, as the author’s message is loud and clear in its praise of the artist as a primary economic driver for any community’s success. From research conducted in preparation for his highly acclaimed book, Florida discovered that for any community to thrive, grow, and expand, for any community to draw the best and brightest to it to live, work, and play, then that community must celebrate and support on all fronts a culture full of art and creativity.

Something we art types already know, but something Florida will mention to the more technical types who attend this conference is this: 

According the Florida, the key to successful communities is making sure creativity is realized in the community. "Every single human being is creative. The key is to nurture, harness and mobilize that creative capability," says Florida.

Not surprisingly, Florida contends creative people want to be in creative places. More than 38 million Americans are paid to be creative. And where do they want to live? They want a place with individual art opportunities, galleries, a variety of music, excitement, energy, and a city with a night life. With the busy schedules of most Americans, they want numerous options available when it fits into their schedule.

Across America, the top high-tech cities are also the top creative communities. These are places open to an artist community, immigrants, and diversity-places that can mobilize their resources together-not places that segregate and pull away from differences.

"Creativity drives economic growth," Florida believes. The belief that a community with technology will grow is no longer the case. In actuality, places that are multi-dimensional in creativity will experience the most growth.

So as our community embraces the dream of building Peoria NEXT-as we endeavor to build a bio/med tech community that lures the best and brightest individuals to live and work here-there’s something we must keep in mind that Richard Florida knows full well: We may lure the best and brightest to apply for jobs here. We may even offer the best and brightest great jobs in the advanced bio/med tech centers we’re hoping to build here soon. But for the best and brightest to actually accept positions here, there must be more to attract them than the job itself.

That’s where the arts community enters the picture. It’s precisely a vibrant, artistic community that will draw new employees to us. As Florida’s research has proven, the job itself, no matter how good it sounds during an interview, won’t be enough. The good salary won’t be enough, either. But given the chance to have a good job, with a competitive salary, in a community full of creativity and cultural enrichment, now we’re talking business. Big business.

In conjunction with Peoria NEXT, the February Discovery Forum will focus on the crucial role the arts will play in the future of our community. Simply put, without the involvement of our arts community, there will be no Peoria NEXT. The truth is that drastic. 

Because you’re reading Arts Alive!, you, as an arts enthusiast, obviously already know the value of the arts in your life and in your community. At our upcoming Discovery Forum, through round table discussions to take place during lunch, all participants will be encouraged to express their own hopes, dreams, and ideas regarding how the arts can help grow Peoria into a community that lures "the creative class."

Therefore, all of you artists and representatives from our various art groups, please consider this as a prime opportunity for you to play an integral part in building Peoria NEXT. Do attend this forum. Although Peoria may be bringing in a bright and sunny Florida on a cold February day, with the support of as many of you as possible, let’s send our own message to him-that because of our unfailing commitment to building a strong and vibrant arts community, our future is so bright he’s going to have to wear sunglasses. AA!