I’ve been more aware of the impact of arts and culture since we’ve been publishing Arts Alive! the past seven years. There’s no doubt that decisions on where to live are greatly influenced by the perceived quality of life in that community. Temperature, topography, cost of living, and schools are important, but equally important are opportunities to be a spectator and/or participant in all forms of artistry, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.

Central Illinois has welcomed the Shoppes at Grand Prairie, additional theatrical organizations, artists’ lofts, and restaurants; we anticipate an expanding Civic Center and internationally known artists to perform here next season.

The recent report, "Arts Spending in the Peoria Area and its Economic Impact," conducted by Dr. Jannett Highfill and Dr. Bernard Goitein for ArtsPartners, included a section entitled "The Creative Class: Attraction and Retention." "Although not directly quantifiable, we note an indirect benefit of the arts: These help Peoria recruit and retain the kinds of people who will be most valuable for employers in the next decades. Richard Florida, in The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), argues that ’cities need a people climate even more than they need a business climate. This means supporting creativity across the board–in all of its various facets and dimensions–and building a community that is attractive to creative people, not just to high-tech companies’…His argument is essentially that creative people of all types like to have access to a large number and variety of creative options, large scale and small, active and passive."

We had the opportunity to explore and critique other communities this summer as we began college visits for my daughter. Identifying her field of interest, the type of college experience desired–which included a strong campus life–and searching for the universities offering that major, we then looked at the communities in which they were located.

As choosing a university is one of the most important decisions of life, we wanted to carefully research the area she might call ’home’ for the next four to five years. I equated this search to one a prospective employee might take when researching a community.

Business, arts and cultural opportunities, shopping, recreation, and ease of transportation in and out of the area are vital. What were the neighborhoods like? Opportunities for internships and/or part-time jobs? Upon return, my husband and I looked at the central Illinois community–where we’ve made our home our entire lives–through the same critiquing eyes.

Shopping? Restaurants? Arts district? Riverfront? Festivals? Sports? Opera? Symphony? Theatre? Touring vocal artists? Educational opportunities? A broad business base? Strong community leadership with growing entrepreneurial spirit? We have it all in terms of culture–right here in central Illinois.

Central Illinois continues to improve the culture necessary to attract the Creative Class. Continue to support the arts! AA!