Opinion: Reach out to Iowa legislators in support of the Iowa Cultural Trust

The Iowa Capitol shown on the opening day of the Iowa Legislature, Jan. 9, 2017. -- photo by Lauren Shotwell
The Iowa Capitol shown on the opening day of the Iowa Legislature, Jan. 9, 2017. — photo by Lauren Shotwell

Today, perhaps as early as 1 p.m., the Iowa House will be considering HF 118, a financing bill that proposes cutting funding to many arts initiatives in this state, including the Iowa Cultural Trust.

The threat to the Iowa Cultural Trust is something that affects all Iowans who have an interest in the culture of the state. I have been hesitant to write on this issue as I did not feel I could discuss it objectively. I still can’t — so I decided to share my own advocacy, in hopes that it will encourage you to engage in your own. Below is the letter that I sent to my local representative, the speaker, the speaker pro-tempore and the majority and minority leaders. I hope you will consider doing something similar.

Find your local representative, or address your concerns to House leadership. Every voice counts. Individuals have also planned a rally Monday afternoon at the State Capitol Building.

Dear Representative,

I am writing to you today regarding the upcoming vote regarding funding for the Iowa Cultural Trust. I know that you are well aware of the fantastic record that the arts in Iowa have for generating economic activity and drawing both visitors and residents to the state. I wanted to offer you a more personal perspective.

As the arts editor of an independent alt-weekly, I have had the distinct privilege of experiencing, time and again, the clear benefits of the arts in our community. The tangible impact that I see daily is the reason I do this job. The arts are relevant in themselves, but they are also invaluable to our education, community and sense of identity.

Last fall, I saw the powerful inaugural event of Wasn’t That a Time?, an Iowa Arts Council grant-funded collaboration between the Awful Purdies and the Family Folk Machine, a project that engages residents of the Iowa City Senior Center in songwriting techniques to help them share their stories.

This weekend, ArtLOUD! debuted, helmed by Cedar Rapids project The Hook and its founder and director, Iowa Arts Council Fellow Akwi Nji. The performance likewise centered on telling the stories of our community in a powerful, poignant way.

I have seen the transformative work of Working Group Theatre, including the powerful humanity of their Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. I have encountered many moments of transcendence at CSPS Legion Arts, celebrating 25 years, including fundraisers for a local arts-focused elementary school, premieres of operas from local artists and profound offerings of performance poetry.

I’ve seen artists come together to raise money and awareness for community members, suicide awareness organizations, crisis centers and more. The arts are a window into our shared humanity. We are truly blessed in Iowa to have so many amazing artists keeping those windows clean for us to see more clearly.

It is not the victors who write history. It is the artists. Countless people who will never crack open a history textbook can nevertheless rattle off for you large chunks of Hamilton, can recognize Shepard Fairey’s iconic drawing of Obama.

Being on the side of artists is being on the right side of history, because it is artists who will define that history for all future generations. Help ensure that Iowans have a voice in defining history. Preserve the Iowa Cultural Trust.

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— Genevieve Trainor

“There is nothing more pragmatic than idealism”
–David Mamet

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