What a discovery, I thought, while touring the Children’s Discovery Museum last spring. On that particular morning, a group of toddlers and several groups of grade school children had filled the building. Giggles and squeals of delight were heard from the children as moms, teachers, and guides smiled with appreciation. The children were having fun—and learning through hands-on experiences.

A short distance away I toured the McLean County Arts Center and the McLean County Historical museum. Driving by the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, I caught the enthusiasm for the multi-million-dollar cultural center transformation about to begin. With the U.S. Cellular Coliseum under construction, I could envision the arena filled with spectators. I drove by Ewing Manor and saw the outdoor Shakespeare Festival theater and knew I had to attend a performance. Certainly, it’s located in a setting unique to our area.

As I drove back to the office, I thought of the daily changes to Peoria’s downtown and riverfront. A quick glance at Museum Square and the Civic Center remind me that the 2006 landscape will be totally different. Thank you to the visionaries who’ve been planning for our future. Increasingly, it’s the quality of life that will attract and retain the talent needed for growth in our region. Just as retail businesses locate side by side, offering choices, arts and cultural venues within 50 miles can present choices and opportunities. Collaboration and cooperation, rather than competition for survival, will produce an attractive region.

Downstate Illinois is alive with rich tradition and the promise of new and expanded artistic and cultural opportunities. Discover and support the arts in central Illinois. AA!