Johnson County is rich in the arts. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is known worldwide as the best graduate writing program anywhere. We have incredible visual arts programs. The Mission Creek Festival brings music, visual, culinary, and literary arts center stage every year and our summer arts programming is fantastic. But how do we use this talent and energy to build and strengthen our community? The short answer is: We don’t.
I grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, a town of a similar size to Iowa City with with West Virginia University at it’s center and rural areas surrounding. When I was a teen, I had the lifeline of multiple venues to express myself artistically. I worked for the Monongalia Arts Center, where I was able to put on plays, rock n roll shows, haunted houses, art shows, and I even directed a children’s choir.
Teens in our community have no options that come close to the opportunities I have and in a community of our size with our history, that’s nearly a crime. We can change that.
- I propose a joint effort between the county and our municipalities to find a place and find the funding for a Johnson County Center for the Arts. There are community members already doing this work and we need to work with them to make this dream a reality.
- We need to dedicate ourselves to funding for artists in residence in Johnson County. We’ve had 39 Pulitzer Prize-winning writers in our midst. How many of them were ever asked to speak or work in our schools? We have great musicians in our communities, but how do they bring their music to people in need?
- We must leverage our gifts to enrich our communities and artist in residency programs will help keep our local talent local so we can stop suffering from this very unique kind of brain drain.