Nothing cheers the heart and soul more than a warm, sunny, spring day following the cold, gray, cloudy days of an Illinois winter. Following the yellow blooms of daffodils, another first sign of spring in central Illinois are the yellow school buses pulling up curbside at the Peoria County Courthouse to drop off students, instruments, easels, and choral risers. Arts in Education Spring Celebration marks the beginning of spring and the end of another school year.

Having enjoyed several picnic lunches while observing young local artists, I recommend taking a cultural break in your workday this spring to visit the Celebration. From April 19 to May 28, more than 17,000 students and 400 teachers from pre-K through high school will exhibit, perform, and demonstrate their talents.

On a similar note, museums around the country, our own Smithsonian-affiliate Lakeview among them, encourage parents and businesses to think creatively-not only when planning a business lunch, but when planning a birthday party or special celebration. What better way to subtly bring a little fine art and culture into an event? I’m sure once our own Lakeview Museum relocates to the riverfront, those types of events will increase.

I’ve attended several after-work receptions hosted at Lakeview Museum, the Peoria Art Guild, the Contemporary Art Center, and even the Historical Society, where the regular "dinner and a movie" crowd was impressed, enlightened-cultured, should we say-while enjoying a delightfully extraordinary evening. I’ve heard only positive comments from first-time event attendees, such as, "We must come back again! I just didn’t know!"

Being creatures of habit, it takes planning and effort to vary our leisure and entertainment routines. Each month, Arts Alive! promotes arts and cultural opportunities available in central Illinois. The month of May brings local and national, amateur and professional artistic venues: "Songs of the Silver Screen" by our own Peoria Area Civic Chorale and a special concert at the Peoria Civic Center by internationally known cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Illinois Central College, Bradley University, Tazwood Dance, and other organizations will hold year-end recitals. Classics such as Forever Plaid can be found at Peoria Players, and there’s always a surprise at Conklin’s Barn II.

Put some art into your Spring Celebration! AA!