Compiling this month’s Little Village calendar of events and seeing so many flood-related closures provided a somber reminder of the serious blow suffered by many of our beloved arts and cultural venues. Much hard work and rebuilding lies ahead. Below is an overview of where some of these organizations stand now that flood waters have receded. As a community publication that supports local arts and business, Little Village encourages any help our readers are able to offer.
The University of Iowa Arts Campus
By foot or on bike, a trip along the riverside pathways of the Iowa Arts Campus has always provided a lovely view and a comforting reminder of the importance of art at the University of Iowa and in Iowa City. Formed more than 70 years ago, the Campus is home to a mix of of modern and classic architecture that houses Hancher Auditorium and most of Iowa’s art-oriented schools and departments. Sadly, it’s proximity to the Iowa River also means the Arts Campus fell victim to some of the most severe UI flooding.
Flooded buildings that have displaced faculty, staff and students and impacted current and future arts programming include the Voxman Music Building and Clapp Recital Hall (School of Music), the Theatre Building (Theatre Arts), the Museum of Art, and both the old (but classic) Art Building and Stephen Holl’s architectural wonder, Art Building West (School of Art and Art History). Affected artist workspace includes photography, ceramics, metalsmithing and sculpture studios, which were under six to seven feet of water and will not be available for use in the fall.
At the Museum of Art, the good news is that most of the collection — artworks representing 99 percent of the value of the UIMA’s collection, according to interim director Pamela White — was packed and moved to secure off-site storage, the bulk of it in Chicago. It’s still unclear when the artwork will return home and the UIMA can be fully open to the public, but it’ll be longer than anyone would like.
With cleanup and recovery underway, the full extent of damage and the impact on arts programming during the upcoming academic year remains to be seen. The UI has made it a top priority to maintain full academic offerings in the arts, but many classes and performance/work spaces will need to be relocated. A few UI sources to watch for updates: UI Flood Information, Arts Calendar, Hancher Auditorium blog, and Foundation Flood fund
On the east side of the River, lower-level flooding closed the Iowa Memorial Union, which houses the Bijou Theater, a longtime source for independent and foreign film. The Bijou is dry, but the IMU also hosts other entertainment during the year, and it’s unknown when the building will return to full capacity. For updates, check the Bijou website.
Although its primary home is on north Gilbert Street is high and dry, the flooding couldn’t have come at a worse time for Riverside Theatre, which was set to open its annual Shakespeare Festival at the outdoor Riverside Festival Stage in City Park. The stage flooded with the rest of the park, and Riverside moved this year’s productions (The Comedy of Errors and The Winter’s Tale) to Opstad Auditorium at City High School. The move has caused a dip in attendance at the otherwise popular festival, and Riverside would love to see you in the seats before the shows close on July 13. Donations are also being solicited to help cover lost ticket revenue and to replace some equipment lost due to flooding of Riverside’s shop in Coralville
If you’ve seen the jaw-dropping photos and aerial footage (who hasn’t?), you know just how devastating the floods were to Cedar Rapids, with the core of the city built on and around the Cedar River. Home to the much-loved Czech Village and diverse neighborhoods and arts organizations, Cedar Rapids took a direct hit to the heart of its cultural life.
Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
The museum was able to move most of its collection before flooding and estimates only five percent of the collection was affected by water or high humidity. The building itself suffered flood damage and is being professionally cleaned and sanitized. The exhibition preparation area was destroyed and tools, equipment and supplies housed in storerooms were un-salvageable. All summer events at the museum have been canceled, and the museum hopes to reopen in a limited capacity around Labor Day. The Grant Wood Studio was not affected and will reopen in July. Donations can be made through the Cedar Rapids Art Museum website.
Cedar Rapids Public Library
The CRPL’s main branch downtown was flooded and the collection suffered extensive damage. All staff have been relocated, and the main branch will remain closed until safe cleanup and recovery allows staff and eventually the public to return. At this time, the CRPL is asking donations be placed on hold until they have the room to accept items.
National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library / Czech Village
Astonishing early photos of the Czech & Slovak Museum showed its building drowning in more than 15 feet of exterior water (10 feet inside). Fortunately, two semis of artifacts were moved out before the flood, and other items were moved to higher ground before evacuation was required. Staff are now working to preserve as much damaged material as possible with the help of conservationists. The building has suffered severe damage, but as NCSML president Gail Naughton has said, “a museum is more than a building, it exists in the hearts and souls of people.” A flood relief fund has been setup online. Also uncertain is the fate of flooded homes and other businesses in the Czech Village neighborhood, as the Cedar Rapids City Council faces tough decisions about how to rebuild. If you feel it’s important to protect the area’s rich history and diversity, let them know
African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa
About five feet of water soaked materials at the African American Historical Museum. It’ll take completion of salvage and cleanup efforts to know how much of its collection will be saved. Updates on recovery and programming can be found online, where donations can also be made.
Legion Arts / CSPS & New Bohemia
Providing some of the most eclectic music and arts programming in the state, Legion Arts is a cornerstone of the New Bohemia arts district. Fortunately, the upper floors of its building (which house gallery and performance space) suffered minimal flood damage and the structure appears sound. Unfortunately, the ground level businesses of CSPS and the rest of the New Bohemia district didn’t escape the devastating floodwaters. Many local artists have been impacted by the flood, and Legion Arts has setup an Iowa Artist Relief Fund to help.
Theatre Cedar Rapids
A longtime Cedar Rapids arts staple, Theatre Cedar Rapids recently launched a capital campaign for improvements to its home, the century-old Iowa Theatre Building. Now TCR is faced with flood damage and recovery, which they’ll need to overcome while also looking to the future. Waters flooded the dressing rooms and costume shop and soaked the stage and auditorium seats. Summer productions and theatre camps for students have been moved. Updates and news on alternate venues for productions in the upcoming season will be posted online, where donations can also be made. TCR also houses productions by Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, whose programs will be impacted by flooding.
This September 1 marks the 80th anniversary of the opening of the historic Paramount Theatre, which opened as the Capitol Theatre before being bought and renamed by Paramount Pictures in 1929. It was gifted to the City of Cedar Rapids in 1975 and two restorations have helped it remain a spectacular venue. The anniversary will still come, but the Paramount suffered extensive flood damage and will need some serious TLC to recover. More than eight feet of water rose above stage level and upended the Paramount’s historic (1,000-pound) Wurlitzer Organ, which is maintained by the Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society. Parts of the organ are being salvaged, but the console couldn’t survive the water damage; a rarity, it will need to be rebuilt or replaced. Thankfully, no water entered the pipe chambers and CRATO members are hopeful that the organ will be played again in its original home. To help the cause, visit www.cr-atos.com. The Paramount is also home to the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra, also in need of financial support; donate online at www.crsymphony.org.