Iowans’ Ideas: Guest columns featuring the views of different Iowans in each edition of Iowa Ideas magazine.
By Chris Kramer
We can make Iowa an even better place by building upon our state’s unique characteristics and boosting our quality of life to attract visitors and retain residents.
Iowa is becoming better known as a culturally vibrant state with world-class arts and cultural offerings. Our revitalized cities feature beautiful streetscapes with a blend of well-preserved historic properties and new buildings designed by world-renowned architects. Our rural towns proudly show off local charm.
Dynamic art is at the center of public spaces where Iowans gather for special events and daily life. These are destinations for cultural and heritage tourism, and they contribute to a unique sense of place and community pride.
Art, film and history are vital factors that business leaders, families and millennials consider when choosing where to set up shop or settle down to live, work and play. Cultural programs promote economic growth and strengthen our quality of life.
To support these efforts statewide, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs recently awarded more than $2 million in grants to more than 200 projects that will serve as catalysts for new community initiatives, cultural organizations and small businesses. This year’s annual list of grants includes the inaugural Greenlight Grants for homegrown film projects that feature stories about Iowa.
All these investments demonstrate how Iowans value the creative sector as an economic engine that contributes to a productive business climate and a diversified economy.
But these investments are important for intangible reasons, too. Iowans care deeply about being Iowan. We connect through shared values such as respect, hard work, lifelong learning and recreation.
From river to river, we value our communities and are proud to show them off because each one is unlike any other.
We take care of the statues around the courthouse square. We re-energize our historic downtowns with new storefronts. We install new public art that reflects our growing diversity. We support the new business that our neighbor’s daughter just launched or the craft brewery our co-worker’s son opened around the corner.
Across the nation, community leaders are using the creative sector to spark innovation, and Iowa is ready to lead the way. Ongoing public-private investments can build culturally vibrant communities that bring back young professionals and attract new residents.
We’ll welcome folks with our vintage charm, thriving businesses and friendly neighbors who are both proud and happy to live here.
And after they’re dazzled by all that, we can explain that here in Iowa “farm to table” is just called supper.
• Chris Kramer is director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the State Historical Society of Iowa, State Historic Preservation Office, Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, the state office of film and media production.