BVU students who met recently with State Rep. Gary Worthan, right, at the Iowa Legislature: Josh Belko, LeeReyna Levya, Veronica Scoffield, Andrea Nicholson, Krisondra Snedeker, Anne Young, and Geoffrey Ullerich. Dr. Bethany Larson is seated.
Seven Buena Vista University students took their passion for the arts to the State Capitol for Iowa Cultural Advocacy Day on March 19.
Dr. Bethany Larson, associate professor of theatre, accompanied the students, a mixture of arts management majors and music production majors. They met with State Representative Gary Worthan (R – Storm Lake) and shared their thoughts about the importance of the arts and culture.
“One of the capstones of the arts management major is advocacy. The goal is for students to begin behaving as professionals. We’re not just covering the topics related to managing a gallery or theatre, we’re taking them further than that. Even though they haven’t yet had their first job in the field, they are professionals,” says Larson. “This was one way of putting them in that position. A lot of people in arts need to do advocacy to raise money and secure funding. The students did a lot of research and went down there armed with facts about the benefits of arts and government support and what happens when there is a lack of government support. They shook hands with Gary and were very articulate and passionate.”
“Dr. Larson did a tremendous job preparing myself and classmates for our trip and meeting with Mr. Worthan,” says Geoff Ullerich, a senior music production major from Storm Lake. “We examined many economic markets within all areas of the arts. Another important area was the examination of how the legal/political environment can influence the arts.”
Worthan was the only legislator to meet with the BVU group.
“Meeting with the legislator wasn't very encouraging as far as what our interest was. Mr. Worthan started our meeting by saying that he was not the best person to talk with about our area of interest,” Geoff says. “One thing we all noticed was the extreme amount of art, sculptures, and museums/cultural preservation that is around the downtown Des Moines area. Even the capitol building itself has every wall and ceiling decorated with gorgeous paintings. It was ironic to think about how unimportant the arts are in the view of many people, yet the state seemingly put an awful lot of money and focus into ensuring that there was plenty of art and creativity within the state capitol building.”
Worthan emphasized to the students that his expertise was agriculture and roads, but he did take the time to listen to the students and speak with them about their concerns.
“He talked to us for a long time,” Larson says. “The best thing Gary said to the students was, ‘if you love something, you have to get in there and work for it and make something happen.’”
The students talked about their experience on the drive back from Des Moines. Larson believes the outing was a bit disappointing for some of the students, but very eye-opening as well.
“It was a real learning experience for the students. I think they saw that the budget and legislature is more complicated than a lot of people realize. There are real reasons the government can’t fund the arts or other items. The arts are such an important part of their lives, and it can be hard to see it’s not in the center of the priority web for the state leaders – not because they don’t care about the arts, but because there is only so much money to go around. This is real life. To some extent, college is real life too, but at BV, it’s very easy to make your voice heard. It’s a little tougher to do that in government.”
Cultural Advocacy Day is sponsored by the Iowa Cultural Coalition. During the visit, BVU students also got to visit the State Historical Building and the Department of Cultural Affairs.
“It was interesting to go to the capitol – I grew up in Nebraska, so I had never seen the Iowa Capitol,” says Anne Young, a senior arts management – fine arts and music major from Council Bluffs. “The building itself is eclectic, with multiple types of marble in every room that seems very classical but wall patterns that look very Art Deco. The Arts group brought in a quintet of harpists, they played right under the dome and it sounded amazing. Plus, one of the girls was only in seventh grade.”
Other students who traveled to the capitol included Josh Belko, a senior music production major from Pine City, Minn; LeeReyna Levya, a senior art and arts management major from Redfield; Veronica Scoffield, a junior music production major from St. Louis, Mo.; Andrea Nicholson, a sophomore arts management major from St. Paul, Minn.; and Krisondra Snedeker, a senior arts management major from Storm Lake.