I was one of the more than 900 people who attended Discovery Forum 2005: A Celebration of the Art and Science of Life. Intended to introduce artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, educators, and inquiring minds to one another, I made several discoveries that day.

The celebration opened with a short video presentation on Bradley University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Stan Liberty, Ph.D., who coincidentally chairs the Research, Education and Innovation Team of Peoria NEXT. Peoria NEXT is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit foundation formed with the purpose of creating a healthier future for the Peoria regional community, evidenced by increased economic growth and diversity, physical well-being, social stability, and opportunity. However, these words don’t adequately explain what the audience heard and experienced that morning.

Stan earned his Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering. I’ve sat on committees and talked with Stan during the past seven years he’s lived in Peoria yet didn’t know of his love for music. I didn’t realize he played the piano in jazz bands while going to college and, in fact, is an accomplished musician. He describes it as "natural" that his scientific and technical mind also allows him a creative and artistic mind. While listening to Stan perform classical music on stage and then beautifully complement the four-member jazz musicians on stage, the connection was made. It wouldn’t have come as such a "lightbulb" discovery had I not heard the beautiful opening performance.

The day continued with presentations by internationally known scientists, educators, futurists, as well as an update from Dr. Jeff Huberman on the state of the arts in Peoria and ArtsPartners. He introduced the "best example of kinesthetic learning"-a performance by Peoria Ballet dancers.

The first $10,000 Peoria Prize for Creativity was awarded to The University of Florida’s Digital Worlds Institute for "Hands Across the Ocean: The Lost Chord." The project demonstrates that Access Grid technologies can be used to enhance education by making any classroom the epicenter of a truly global education by linking ethnic musicians spread across nearly 40,000 miles and four continents to produce a global, real-time music performance.

Art, education, science, and technology collaborating for discovery. It’s no surprise that central Illinois is a leader in developing Peoria NEXT and the Day of Discovery. The stated goal: "By 2015 the Peoria region will be the preferred Midwestern region in support of the culture of discovery, the creation of innovation and the implementation of commercialization in the areas of life science, material science, and engineering science." All necessary to keep the Arts Alive! AA!