In 2013, the Iowa West Foundation commissioned ArtsMarket to study the arts and culture scene in the Council Bluffs region. This included an evaluation of all types of arts, cultural and history/heritage providers, dozens of whom participated in several community forums regarding the topic. The findings from the report were clear: nearly all Council Bluffs’ area arts and culture organizations were “small and weak.” Many were on the brink of closing their doors. The underfunded organizations that were in desperate need of updating. Through the voices of community participants, three things were deemed key to turning things around.
1) Arts education that appreciates the past and spawns creativity for the future
2) A diversified and sustained funding structure
3) A community arts & culture center
ArtsMarket recommended establishing an initiative for the arts that focused on a vibrant cultural life to benefit residents and attracts visitors. The community agreed with their assessment and asked the Iowa West Foundation to take the lead.
Numerous gatherings with local arts, cultural and community organizations engaged stakeholders in determining the next steps and strategic direction of the arts initiative. From that process, Pottawattamie Arts, Culture and Entertainment(PACE), a 501 ( c )3 was created. Originally, it was recommended a new arts & culture center be housed in the former Carnegie Library and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum expand to the Harvester II building.
When Union Pacific decided to remain at the Carnegie Library, experts began studying the placement of an arts and culture center in Harvester II, along with an adjacent theater for community plays and ballet performances. The Iowa West Foundation has committed to $8 million to the project, $7 million in capital costs and $1 million in operating costs for the first five years. Fundraising for the remaining cost of the arts & culture center is currently underway. A project advocate has been hired to provide oversight to architects designing the building, which is scheduled for completion in 2019. A creative place-making expert facilitated several visioning sessions designed to guide programming.
Fundraising and the schematic design are currently underway. Late in 2016, the design will go out for bid, with the hope for construction to start in 2018. The goal is for the arts & culture center to be fully operational by 2019.
Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment (PACE) is a 501 c 3 with a mission to strengthen, develop and promote arts, cultural, and historical institutions, organizations, and activities in Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County. The newly formed organization will serve as a professional umbrella of its partner organizations as well as a centralized hub for fundraising and marketing. PACE also will offer shared theater, exhibit, classroom, and archival space.
The model elevates the structure and function of the arts in the greater Council Bluffs community, allowing for a renewed focus on creating a vibrant cultural life that benefits residents and attracts visitors throughout the region.
Why the Harvester
The Harvester II Building, located on South Main Street, was chosen because of its close proximity to the Harvester I building and strategic location near downtown Council Bluffs. In 2007, the Harvester I building, previously a warehouse, was renovated to be a 36-unit residential and commercial artist space. A study on South Main Street found that this area has strong revitalization potential. With arts and cultural options nearby and urban housing attached, this area will be attractive to young professionals, residents and visitors across Iowa.
With an overall goal of strengthening arts and culture programs in Pottawattamie County, PACE will drive the arts community forward to ensure the sustainability of arts and culture in our community for the future, thereby addressing the three original keys to success with
* a more sustainable future for the arts
* expanded educational programs aimed at children, including afterschool and summer programs
*an arts & culture center that serves as a home for visual, performing and culinary arts with shared archival space for suitable conservation of historical artifacts
Executive Director, PACE
President and CEO, Iowa West Foundation