As a teenager in 1980s small-town Iowa Falls, I was literally starved for culture. The closest cities to me hinted that there was more, but my eyes opened wide as to how much culture there really is in Iowa when I moved to Des Moines to attend Grand View College.
At GVC, I hung with the students on my end of the campus — the theatre people, the radio/TV gang, and the artists. There were performances and art shows to attend; there was always something going on in Des Moines. I loved it. I was in culture heaven. I even found my own ‘art’ there — photography.
After college, I spent time photographing local musicians — Larry Myer, The Mighty Plastisols, Jack Gallup, Dogtown — and after kicking around Iowa for awhile, I landed in Iowa City, working for the (now defunct) alternative-weekly newspaper, the Icon, as office manager and calendar editor.
For a small-town wide-eyed gal like me, the sheer amount of calendar listings boggled me. It became my weekly itinerary: bands, gallery openings, readings by nationally-known writers… it was an incredible abundance of culture.
But how, I wondered, did these artists, musicians, and writers make money practicing their art?
In retrospect, I think I would’ve become a freelance writer sooner if someone would’ve taught me the business of being a writer. Instead, I’ve taken a lot of hard knocks as I’ve stumbled along the path to being an independent ‘artist.’
In the end, it’s paid off — I get to combine my love of writing and my love of culture — and now I’m in a position to do what I wish someone would’ve done for me: show that it’s realistic to make money with your ‘art.’
With that in mind, this issue is about arts as a business, featuring sage advice from veteran artists and profiles of Iowa’s young movers and shakers in the art world. They’re a savvy, dedicated bunch, and they prove that having big dreams, and sometimes a solid business plan, can pay off in the end. — Cathy Wilkie