At our recent Annual Meeting, ArtsPartners proudly named the Peoria Park District as 2005 Arts Partner of the Year. While the mission of the Peoria Park District is “to enrich life in our community through stewardship of the environment and the provision of quality recreational and leisure opportunities,” it was clear from the nominating materials that the Peoria Park District has been highly involved in the arts throughout its 111-year history.

As Peoria Park District staff member Sandra Mitchell wrote in her remarks, “Archives include records and photographs showing dance performances at the annual Field Days in Glen Oak Park in 1895 and concerts held at the bandshell in 1896.” Fast-forward to Memorial Day 2005, when the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Commanday, partnered with Glen Oak Zoo in presenting a first ever Zoomphony. The concert, held in the Glen Oak Amphitheatre, boasted a lively, upbeat musical selection that appealed to all tastes. The response to the event was so positive that, according to Peoria Symphony executive director Judy Furniss, plans are underway to continue this event with the Peoria Park District in the future. (Move over, Boston Pops.)

Added Rebekah Bourland in her support of the Peoria Park District’s nomination, “More than any other single entity, the Peoria Park District has made the cultural arts accessible and affordable to everyone within the greater Peoria area. They have done this through reasonably priced classes, free and low cost performances at Park District sites, and the inclusion of creative activities in their playground programs.”

Peoria Park District volunteer Channy Lyons included in her nomination remarks, “Twenty-five visual arts programs for kids, an art fair, collaborative art and music activities with the public library and the symphony, three Irish dance classes, eleven ballet and six ballroom dancing, two drama programs, Community Children’s Theatre productions, twelve music workshops, twenty-two performances at five locations. And that’s just some of this summer’s offerings!”

She also noted the park district has been “a creative hub in our community for more than 100 years, offering opportunities for people of all ages to experiment, learn new techniques, hone skills—and to simply create something for the pure joy of it.”

Congratulations, Peoria Park District, for investing so many resources that have resulted in a healthy and vibrant arts community. What a splendid arts partner you are! AA!