A beautiful first fall weekend welcomed the award-winning Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair and Peoria Civic Center’s 20th celebration. I was reminded once again of how well the arts play in Peoria. As a signature event, the Fine Art Fair far surpassed ones I visited just a few months earlier in one of the art capitals of the world–the heart of Manhattan. While Corn Stock Theatre and the Peoria Municipal Band seasons came to a close, the symphony, opera, and Broadway Theatre Series began theirs.

Central Illinois is rich in talent, volunteers, and facilities—and our bank continues to grow. We continue to enhance and diversify with the opening of a professional theatre at the Apollo, Brewster’s comedy club, a new art gallery in Peoria Heights, and the changing galleries on the riverfront, along with a growing number of restaurants hosting musicians.

As I walked along the Fine Art Fair this year, something was different. I looked through the Gateway Building arch and paused for a few moments. I closed my eyes. A block away, I could envision significant new architecture, with a capital “S.” The simply striking structure before me was home to this city’s and region’s new museum. I thought how perfect all weekends could be along the Riverfront–winter, summer, spring, and fall–with a world class museum to enjoy. All entering would experience the region’s past, present, and future while marveling at the ever-changing exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian and other collections known throughout the world.

Afterwards, a short walk would provide us lunch, access to the Illinois Antique Center, Contemporary Art Center, Peoria Art Guild, and shopping at the unique art galleries, gift, and clothing stores. Yes, it would take a while to enjoy all of the art and entertainment at the Riverfront. We’d have to come back again and again, and we would. So would others visiting our city.

As we reflect on Peoria’s arts and entertainment, a true drama of the arts is unfolding. With the stage now set for a new museum, an exciting preview of acts to follow are revealed. What will be required to make it happen? Where will it be located? Who will decide? It’s a story of the “few” and the “many.” As the story begins, we find two different, internationally respected consultants have been retained to recommend the best overall site for the new museum. Their conclusions clearly point to the Sears Block as their first choice, with no close seconds. Their opinions seem to be accepted and shared by many and opposed by few.

As our story line continues, the power to make the Riverfront Sears Block site a reality for our new museum seems to rest in the hands of the few–those individuals elected to represent our opinions and interests as members of the Peoria City Council. In reality, we find the real power to decide rests in the hands of the many–yours, mine, and all of the citizens of Peoria. As we reach the first intermission, we find this story of the ultimate Riverfront project to be too important to the future and a project which too seldom comes along to be decided by the few. The many need to be extensively polled, their voices clearly heard, and their opinions acted upon.

Real opinions are formed and based upon full disclosure and full facts regarding all alternatives. We will expect the second act to provide that information to a large and extremely interested audience–before the act is over, before the story has finished, and before the curtain falls.

True passion and enthusiasm for the arts are here this season–so is a renewed pride in our accomplishments in the arts, tourism, and entertainment of our city. The arts are alive and playing well in Peoria. Absent real and compelling evidence to the contrary, the story of a new museum located on the Riverfront’s Sears Block would seem to make every season a winner and worthy of an Academy Award. AA!