Guest Columnist

The arts help houses become homes in Iowa City

A sign on the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.  (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A sign on the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

It takes more than a house to make a home.

For a home to make sense, for it to be more than walls and wires and rooms; it takes people. It takes a community.

Thousands of people move to Iowa City each year, arriving as incoming freshmen, graduate students, residents, hospital employees, and new retirees. What they have in common is they are moving to Iowa City looking for something. Work or school may be the reason they arrive, but the community they find here is ultimately the reason they stay.

Phoebe, a fourth-generation Iowa Citian, grew up here, whereas I came from Minnesota and Burlington, Iowa, to attend the university. After college, like many other musicians I knew, I stumbled into construction. I took up house painting to pay the bills. Eventually, I made my way to remodeling, which is its own creative field. Remodeling is a lot like being in a punk rock band: it’s loud and dirty and involves creating order out of chaos.

Phoebe and I chose to make Iowa City our home. We got married on The Englert stage and not long thereafter together we started Martin Construction, a remodeling company.

We were fortunate to buy our first home but we had many friends that struggled to do so. One friend was even told by a lender that she was the type of person that would never get to own a house. That attitude infuriated Phoebe and was a catalyst for her to work to become the Realtor for the People. Phoebe now has the honor of serving a wide variety of clients. She loves taking university and hospital recruits on tours of the Iowa City area and having the chance to show off the culture our town has to offer.

One thing Phoebe and I have both noticed as we help our clients is that people begin to feel at home when they start becoming involved in the community. That involvement takes many forms, one of which is the arts.

FilmScene and The Englert Theatre help fill a need in our community for live music and theater. In doing so, they provide an opportunity for people to become involved in the community in ways that reach beyond their work, school, and family commitments. These organizations are cultural leaders responsible for bringing to our attention old favorites as well as cutting-edge experiences that spark conversation, inspire new ideas, and help to invigorate the entire community.

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Through the Strengthen Grow Evolve campaign, The Englert and FilmScene are building upon the strong cultural foundation that already exists here in Iowa City, and in doing so, are leading the way for us to become the greatest small city for the arts.

Phoebe and I have chosen to support the Strengthen Grow Evolve campaign because we believe it is our responsibility, and our privilege, to invest in the future of our community. Iowa City isn’t just where our house is, it’s our home. We ask you to consider becoming involved by donating at strengthengrowevolve.org to this incredibly important campaign so that together we can secure a home for the next generation of live music, theater, dance, and film.

Phoebe and Andy Martin have made their home in Iowa City with two boys, a dog, and chickens. Andy is the president of the Englert Board, and Phoebe is on the SGE steering committee.

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