Rebekah Bourland was honored last month by the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce for her service to the community. “This prestigious award is presented annually to a tri-county individual who has shown outstanding long-term commitment to the community. The nominees are judged not only on length and breadth of their service, but also on the impact of their participation and overall contributions to the community. The award places emphasis on those individuals who have gone about their community service in a quiet way,” according to the Chamber.

While not all of her public service has focused on the arts in central Illinois, Rebekah Bourland certainly has been a driving force in the development of the arts and culture in central Illinois. “Rebekah has touched the lives of people of all ages, races, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. Her passion for Peoria, its people, and its heritage have impacted the lives of many. Her contributions are indeed significant and have changed the community, particularly as a champion of the arts. While Rebekah has made significant contributions to assure Peoria’s cultural, educational, and humanitarian needs are addressed, it is her unheralded involvement in so many organizations and causes that has endeared her to so many people,” the Chamber continued.

Rebekah was featured in The Peoria Woman in June 1990, while she worked for the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. Her love of the arts goes back to her childhood as she stated, “I have been involved with theater and music and all of the performing arts specifically, but also with the graphic arts and visual arts ever since I can remember. I did my first show at Corn Stock when I was nine and have been involved in every aspect of theater since then. I have done lots of major roles, have directed a couple of shows, written a couple of shows and done all that sort of thing.”

At the time, the Peoria Area Arts and Sciences Council was active, and she chaired The Celebration of the Arts. Her sense of the bigger picture was evident as she said, “We would really like to keep the festival free because our goal is to get people down there who have never seen these groups or who have never seen a collage or who don’t know what fiber art is or who have never actually seen a potter throw a bowl, and get them interested and excited about the idea of adding some kind of creative experience to their life.”

Seeing the need for a stronger umbrella organization for the arts, Rebekah co-founded ArtsPartners. Having the title as president of the organization wouldn’t preclude her from jumping in and doing whatever needed to be done. Volunteering many hours in the office stuffing envelopes and making phone calls to painting bus benches for a fundraiser in donated warehouse buildings, to frequent song leader for the Downtown Peoria Rotary, Rebekah volunteers with a smile. From former Municipal Band Commissioner to the WTVP public television board of trustees, her passion for Peoria and the arts has been a life-long commitment. Her family has been involved in the community for five generations.

Now chair of the Peoria Civic Center Board, Rebekah will oversee the entire proposed $55 million revitalization project of the Civic Center. Arts Alive! adds its thanks to Rebekah for her tireless support of the arts. AA!