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NL council approves arts funding for kids

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– North Liberty’s new budget strategy to fund mid-year requests from nonprofit organizations has already benefitted local seniors.
Now it is helping area youth as well.
The North Liberty City Council in October approved two social service funding applications from Elder Services, in the amount of $1,120, and North Liberty Senior Dining program, for $1,500. A third application from Any Given Child of Iowa City, in the amount of $2,000 each year for three years, was considered at the council’s Oct. 27 meeting.
During the city’s budget planning process for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the council agreed to earmark $11,420 for social service programming in addition to the city’s regular annual giving to programs like the North Liberty Community Pantry, the Family Resource Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Free Summer Lunch. The earmarked fund allows the council to consider requests that come after budgeting season. The city’s social services fund requires organizations to file an application and meet deadlines for each round of funding, and Any Given Child was among North Liberty’s three applicants this fall.
Any Given Child of Iowa City was created to provide equitable arts education for students in grades kindergarten through eight. A program of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, its goal is to maximize and coordinate the district’s resources with those in the community to ensure all children have exposure to fine arts experiences. The Iowa City program targets all children attending Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) schools, including Garner, Penn and Van Allen elementary schools and North Central Junior High in North Liberty.
Any Given Child board member Kate Moreland, Director of Community Relations for the Iowa City Area Development Group, attended North Liberty’s council meeting to offer some history on Any Given Child and explain the $2,000 request to the city council. The Kennedy Center assisted in planning the program– in itself a special designation, since ICCSD was only the eighth site chosen in 2012, joining the cities of Portland, Austin, Sacramento, Tulsa, Springfield, Las Vegas and Sarasota. The first step in planning was to audit the available arts programming and resources available to ICCSD students, Moreland said.
“We found that, while there are some amazing (arts experiences) happening, they weren’t happening across the board,” said Moreland. “Certain schools have access to certain resources and others may not. We looked at all the community resources in the arts and ways to coordinate them so every second grader has an opportunity to go to a museum, or to see a performance in the fourth grade, or to have theater and dance experiences. We know if kids are exposed to that, they will appreciate the arts later, and perhaps find a career or a passion in the arts.”
The University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium was instrumental in facilitating the partnership with the Kennedy Center, and Hancher’s Jacob Yarrow was also on hand at last month’s meeting. Yarrow noted that the ICCSD was of interest to the Kennedy Center in part because of the district’s high graduation rate– 92 percent, compared to 48 percent in Baltimore, for example.
“It’s an interesting group to exchange with. Our hope is to ensure equitable access to incredible arts experiences to all K-8 students,” Yarrow said. “We found great values and interest in the ways arts can help students. We also identified opportunities where we can grow. It was an incredible plan that the Kennedy Center helped us to create, and we are hoping to keep it moving forward and have deeper impact on students in our community.”
Yarrow said the Any Given Child program helps leverage available funding in order to provide more arts experiences, and the strategic planning process even helped the Hancher organization better direct its own children’s programming to places where it was most needed.
“We commissioned a play about cyber-bullying that had its world premiere at North Central Junior High. All the kids saw it, and now that play has been picked up by a national agent,” Yarrow said.
In order to move forward, the program now seeks to hire a coordinator.
“We set out as a board to find funding to hire someone part-time to coordinate all these activities. That’s no small job, with 20 elementary schools and three junior highs. We serve about 8,000 kids,” Moreland said. She noted the Kennedy Center does not provide financial assistance to any of its Any Given Child sites. While the school district provides in-kind help such as office space, computer equipment and payroll and benefit services, and the ICCSD Foundation is its fiscal agent, Any Given Child will have to continue fundraising, and will work with school building Parent-Teacher Organizations to provide arts experiences for as many students as possible in a way that meets each school’s specific needs.
North Liberty’s $2,000, she added, will go specifically to hiring a coordinator. The City of Coralville donated $2,000 per year, and the City of Iowa City pledged $3,000 per year.
North Liberty city councilor Chris Hoffman said before Moreland’s presentation he was not inclined to approve the request, but changed his mind after hearing more details of the program.
“I probably wouldn’t have wanted to fund it, but now that you’ve explained what your goal is, that was helpful for me,” Hoffman said. “However, I do want to just do a one-year allocation because I don’t want to commit future councils to this.”
Councilor Coleen Chipman also supported the request.
“Arts is one of the things that gets cut a lot. It is important for kids to be exposed to every type of arts, science, etcetera, so if at some point it inspires them they can take it to a higher level. I do agree on the $2,000 for this year; come back and see us next year.”
“We’ll bring some students with us when we come back,” Moreland joked.
The request for a one-time allocation of $2,000 was approved 3-0, with councilors Brian Wayson and Annie Pollock absent.
Applications for the city’s second round of social services funding will be taken until Dec. 30, with awards being made January 12, 2016.