Four local community leaders joined more than 120 leaders from nearly 50 Iowa communities in late October to discuss creative community building projects and programs that will strengthen Fairfield. In attendance were Terry Baker, executive director of Fairfield Convention & Visitors Bureau; Michael Halley, Fairfield City Council member; Denyce Rusch, president of the Fairfield Cultural Alliance; and Marla Brader, director of Fairfield First Fridays.
The inaugural Iowa Creative Places Exchange, presented by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, focused on strategies to use local arts and culture to spur economic development and attract visitors and new residents. Participants were welcomed by Governor Kim Reynolds who discussed how the arts drive innovation and cultural vitality, especially in small towns.
Chris Kramer, who directs the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, encouraged the event’s participants to keep working to build culturally vibrant places to live, work and play.
”Iowans take pride in their communities and understand how important it is to promote the authentic qualities that make them unique,” Kramer said.
Terry Baker noted, “All of the Fairfield participants were impressed with the wealth of information on how the arts contribute to community growth. Fairfield has long been known as Iowa’s most creative and eclectic small city. Creative place making can help us attract new residents and visitors, both of which are vital to the growth of our community.”
The event’s keynote speaker Jeremy Liu, an award-winning artist and community planner from Oakland, California, discussed several ways to make communities more inclusive and bring partners from diverse sectors to the planning table.
“Great places are not made up just of unique and special physical features of the landscape or the built environment,” he said. “They are made up of the people who created those features. Those features become unique and special places because of how people utilize, protect (and) appreciate those places.”
Fairfield is one of 42 currently designated Iowa Great Places and its current projects center around the Downtown Central District.
Iowa Great Places
The Iowa Great Places program recognizes communities that cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of their local places – neighborhoods, districts or regions – and make them attractive places to live and work. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has invested nearly $21 million in a total of 44 designated Iowa Great Places since the program’s creation in 2006. Funding for the program comes from the Iowa Legislature through an annual appropriation from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
Iowa Cultural & Entertainment Districts
The Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District program designates areas that are already recognized as hubs of cultural activity through a concentration of arts facilities, creative businesses and gathering places. Iowa currently has 13 designated districts.
The Iowa Great Places and Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District programs are administered by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. More information is available at iowaculture.gov.