GOP Lawmaker: Arts Grants “Not Dead”

Feb 2, 2017

A Republican member of the Iowa House is coming to the defense of a state program that benefits artists and arts organizations, after both the House and Senate scooped up the program’s money for other needs.   

Arts advocates lobbied hard to preserve the Cultural Trust Fund, which was established in 2002, so that interest on the fund could provide matching grants for the arts.  

We saw it as economic development

Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) was in the legislature back in 2002 when the Trust Fund was established.

“I was proud to work with fellow Republicans and Democrats to establish this worthwhile effort,” McKean said.  “Back then we saw it as economic development.”

In debate on the bill, McKean said house and senate economic development budget-writers are receptive to finding money to replace the interest on the fund so the grant program could continue. 

Those were encouraging words for supporters of the trust.

“We were very pleased,” said Mary Ellen Kimball who chairs the Cultural Trust board.  

Protester at Iowa Statehouse
Credit Jack Meggers

However, she says, continuing the fund would have provided a dedicated funding stream every year so the arts wouldn’t have to compete with other demands on the state budget.

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs says the fund yields roughly $40,000 in a year.  

Last year, just under $12,000 was distributed to cultural organizations in Greenfield, Fort Dodge, Clear Lake, and Des Moines. 

McKean says the fund was approved to help promote the quality of life in small communities and rural areas.

“Coming from a rural district we are very concerned about doing more to keep our young people,” McKean said.