Although a month has come and gone since Discovery Forum 2004 took place at the Peoria Civic Center, there’s still plenty of enthusiasm being generated by this community-wide event. This is good news to all of us who were sponsors of the Discovery Forum. What we’d hoped for as a result of this daylong "Celebration of Creativity" was that the process of creative discovery would continue.

And continue it has. In fact, the process of creative discovery began during the Discovery Forum itself, when a luncheon exercise engaged all attendees in a networking and brainstorming session. Each table was asked to envision the type of community they wished for our area. At the center of each luncheon table was placed a large blank sheet of paper and some magic markers. Participants were asked to express, either through writing or drawing, creative ideas that would help shape the next Peoria.

Not to ArtsPartners’ surprise, many of the ideas presented by the luncheon groups involved suggestions for increasing the importance of arts in our community, especially in downtown Peoria. Some ideas were to add space for film festivals, music cafés, all-weather outdoor recreation centers, and distinctive living spaces. Another idea was to develop downtown "neighborhood" apartments with rooftops, skywalks, and a gallery space for artists. Further, an idea for an Arts Center was presented that would house the arts organizations under one roof, such as our symphony, opera, and ballet.

A common suggestion among many participants was making the Peoria riverfront more culturally- and family-oriented, with a town centre, restaurants, plazas, and plenty of outdoor entertainment. The farmers’ market slated to begin on Saturdays in downtown Peoria was perceived as a tremendous boost for our city, particularly since it plans to include live music and artwork for sale. A further suggestion was for an Artists’ Square-a gallery of sorts-for local artists to display their artwork by the fountain square along the riverfront.

Other ideas included ways Peorians could take better advantage of the great outdoors. Recreation was emphasized highly and often, with a need for more walkways and bicycle paths, perhaps a walking and bicycle trail bridge that led over the river to better connect Peoria and East Peoria. Other suggestions included a botanical garden complete with waterfalls, a children’s play house, and conference center.

Speaking of children, some of the most common suggestions involved more events and activities for them. Nearly every table made some mention of the fact that area children are a very valuable resource and shouldn’t be overlooked during the creative process of discovery. More than once it was noted that not only should children’s creativity be encouraged at a young age, but our community should wholeheartedly embrace our children’s ideas and recognize their creative contributions as both valid and inspiring.

One other major concern was for Peoria to get rid of its "inferiority complex." Many groups said we’ve got to make everyone aware of their own creativity and then put their creativity to work.

That’s where this list of Discovery Forum ideas ends and the process of discovery continues. It’s the goal of PeoriaNEXT and ArtsPartners to form creative think tanks-creative sessions for all interested parties-from Discovery Forum attendees to the entire community at large, to work together to create the community we envision.

If the idea of creative discovery appeals to you, please call ArtsPartners, and we’ll add your name to the growing list of individuals interested in formulating creative clusters of community think tanks.

In the meantime, if you’d like to view highlights from Discovery Forum 2004 "A Celebration of Creativity," several videos are now available for checkout at the Peoria Public Library. Tune in. Check them out. Then come Discover Peoria Arts with us. AA!