Department heads from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs were in Perry on July 26 to hear from area residents.


The department is in the process of updating its strategic plan. A survey was sent out earlier in the year outlining what the department’s strategic plan was and asking how well the plan was followed.


A need for further information came out of the survey, leading the department to host six community conversations across Iowa. Department of Cultural Affairs staff members visited Charles City, Washington, Burlington, Malvern and Storm Lake before landing in Perry on July 26 at La Poste.


“It’s really important that we hear from Iowans,” said Chris Kramer, acting director for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.


She said the department invited community leaders to the conversations, representing arts, film and media, historic preservation and other cultural organizations.


Those individuals, Kramer added, were asked to share their vision for the future and help the department develop culturally vibrant towns across Iowa.


“We want to have input on how our resources, our grant programs, our technical assistance could be best shaped for the future so that you can continue all the great work for your communities,” she said to those attending in Perry.


Linda Wastyn, president of Wastyn and Associates in the Quad Cities, led a general session asking for that input from the community members. Those members came from Perry, Jefferson, Urbandale, Waukee and more.


Wastyn started the session by asking the crowd about their community’s cultural needs and wants.


“Well, in Jefferson I think a cultural thing that we are really lacking is a place kind of like La Poste and an art gallery,” said Deb McGinn, representing Jefferson Matters: Main Street. “We have a lot interest in it, but we just don’t know how to get started.”


Matt McDevitt, representing Perry Economic Development, said Perry is looking to plan what art means to the community over the next five years.


“Whether it’s public art, different types of art, how do we attract more artists here, how do we attract more people to visit the art that is here. Have art be a part of our identity throughout the state,” he said.


Julie Scheib, representing Perry Historical Preservation and Perry Chamber, said she would like to see the historic downtown storefronts full.


Wastyn then asked how the department of cultural affairs can help communities achieve some of those goals.


“We have a culturally vibrant community here in Perry,” said Betsy Peterson, owner of Betsy Peterson Designs. “We would like to tell that to others and work with tourism to get people from out of town to visit us and enjoy our hotel, bike trails, our public art and businesses.”


“So get your story out broadly,” Wastyn said.


Perry Chamber Director Lynsi Pasutti said there are a lot of fantastic communities in Iowa. But, she said there is sometimes competition between those communities.


“How can the department of cultural affairs help bridge that and maybe help mitigate some of that sense of competition?” Wastyn asked.


“I don’t know the answer, but something that’s more meant for people to come together and share ideas,” Pasutti said of conversations between communities.


The general session then broke down into three smaller sessions, focused on historic preservation, film and media and the arts.


Kramer hopes the July 26 work session spawns future conversations with those in attendance.


“It’s nice that we’ve got folks from numerous communities coming to each of these meetings so they can share ideas and connect with each other,” she said. “Hopefully they can have this be a catalyst for future collaboration.”