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A Publication of WTVP

Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Engineers and artists? Is that last pairing a mistake? Odd as it may seem at first consideration, the combination of the arts and sciences is one of the most powerful and logical of the three.
To many of us, scientists and researchers are characterized as being methodical and thorough. It’s true; these are qualities that make their work effective and valuable. Beneath all of these typically "scientific" characteristics, however, lies a gift that these scientists share with painters, dancers, singers, and artistic performers. The gift is creativity.

Creativity is the parallel that connects the greatest engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs with the most masterful choreographers, musicians, sculptors, and painters. Whether the artist is trying to create something beautiful or the inventor is developing a solution that defies traditional thinking, creativity is the common denominator.

Creativity is alive in central Illinois. Peoria’s USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research is a demonstration in creativity. Using new and unusual oils from the seeds of wild plants and new soybean varieties, scientists at NCAUR invent ways to create biodegradable hydraulic fluid, engine oils, cosmetic ingredients, and detergents. The result of this creativity is expanded market opportunity for U.S. farmers.

Engineers at Caterpillar’s Technical Services Division (TSD) are beacons of creativity as well. TSD offers services and solutions for every aspect of product development. Everyone in TSD has a mission: to make available the latest product, manufacturing, support, and development technologies to the Caterpillar enterprise and the customer. The results of this creativity are visible in Caterpillar products, which consistently have been some of the most innovative and technologically advanced equipment on the market.

You’ll find these examples of creativity throughout the Peoria area-at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Bradley University, our regional hospitals, and in businesses and laboratories throughout the region.

Recognizing this creativity is only half the battle. To be successful in the knowledge economy, we must celebrate and support a culture of creativity. In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, author Richard Florida explores a new wave of economic development practice that considers the attraction and development of a creative class a fundamental economic development tool. The creative class now comprises more than 30 percent of the entire workforce. The choices these "creatives" make already have a huge economic impact, and in the future, they’ll determine how the workplace is organized, what companies will prosper or go bankrupt, and even which cities will thrive or wither.

Peoria is going to thrive. The organizations and businesses that make up Peoria NEXT are again demonstrating their commitment to the presence of the Peoria area as a force in the knowledge economy though a new venture-Discovery Forum 2004: A Celebration of Creativity.

Discovery Forum 2004 takes place February 6 at the Civic Center and is the third in a series of annual Discovery Forums sponsored by Peoria NEXT. The first two were dedicated to the Celebration of Discovery and Innovation, showcasing the magnitude of discovery and innovation in central Illinois. The 2004 event is significant in that it will integrate discovery and innovation with the element that drives and stimulates such endeavors-creativity.

A key element to the success of this event will be the presence of creativity in all its forms. To accomplish this, Peoria NEXT is partnering with ArtsPartners, the local arts collaborative dedicated to nurture, promote, and serve the creative and cultural arts in the central Illinois area. ArtsPartners and Peoria NEXT have designed the event to celebrate creativity, while encouraging its expression through the arts and the sciences in the Peoria region. 

Discovery Forum 2004 will feature various manifestations of creativity throughout the entire day. The list of presenters reads like a who’s who from the arts and sciences in central Illinois-and beyond. The keynote speaker for the day is Dr. Florida of Carnegie-Mellon University, a nationally recognized expert on the role of creativity and economic development.

You don’t have to be a scientist, engineer, or artist to attend Discovery Forum 2004. The creative class is about creativity throughout the community-at every level and in every industry. IBI

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