Arts and culture found only on the East and West Coasts? Try the Midwest. Think of the heart of Illinois—central Illinois. Our arts community is not only alive, but thriving here in central Illinois.

The Heartland has produced more than its share of talents in film, performance, writing, music, and art. From Vaudeville to traveling Broadway shows, central Illinoisans support musical and dramatic productions. Peoria Players is one of the nation’s oldest community theaters. Through local organizations’ permanent art collections, our city showcases numerous public works of art. Our present variety of arts organizations and venues are supported—and our tremendous cultural history is tended to—by community members who contribute their time, money, and enthusiasm.

Last year the Peoria Civic Center celebrated 20 years of continuous operation, and now, more than 19 million visitors later, is considering expansion. The recently released Peoria Civic Center economic impact study conducted by C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc. reported in 2001-2002, the Civic Center generated approximately $134.6 million in total spending. The numbers and analysis are important as plans for expansion develop. This independent study—as well as the Lakeview Museum study—validates their importance to the future and growth of our community.

Other development plans include the Peoria Zoological Society, which has a $25 million expansion in the works, and a children’s museum is gaining momentum. Lakeview Museum is experiencing its own growing pains, and with continued support will relocate to Peoria’s riverfront. Numerous studies have confirmed the best spot to build an expanded museum is on vacant property at the riverfront. Following the vision of community leaders and developers, by making the riverfront a destination point for events, dining, shopping, culture, and relaxation, our entire community will benefit.

Navy Pier in Chicago was ranked as the No. 1 attended attraction in Illinois in 2002, up 2.9 percent from the previous year. There’s no denying it; rivers and lakes are a draw. Living in a community with such a great asset should never be taken for granted.

I want to thank the Arts Alive! readers who have responded the last couple of months to our survey on the cover of this magazine. Our preliminary responses reveal more than 60 percent of our readers attend cultural events at least twice a month, with more than 56 percent attending riverfront events and art fairs. The Peoria community is alive with excitement as we anticipate and plan our future. Now is the time to become even more civic minded—with our time, our money, and our enthusiasm. AA!