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Improving Quality of Life Through Arts and Culture in DSM USA

Experiencing Arts and Culture in DSM USA

September 29, 2017

When you think of Greater Des Moines (DSM) — what comes to mind? For many, it’s the rural Heartland dotted with cattle, corn and soybeans. Others recognize DSM as a financial powerhouse with global insurance and banking firms populating the region. But those who have been paying attention know that the arts and culture sector in DSM is also alive and thriving. Recent economic reports — like the Americans for the Arts: Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study and the National Center for Arts Research’s annual Arts Vibrancy Index evaluation — put the region at the heart of a growing industry: Arts and Culture. Long revered as a “nice to have” for a community, these reports are adding the numbers to the stories, and proving that this “need to have” economic engine is in full swing with a powerful forward momentum.

Bravo Greater Des Moines Creates Cultural Experiences

One of the catalysts to this cultural boom was the creation of Bravo Greater Des Moines. Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, mentioned Bravo as a key contributing partner in the advancement of economic development.

In 2004, visionary community leaders voiced the need for a way to ensure arts, culture and heritage (ACH) organizations could provide the region with rich cultural experiences to benefit DSM residents and visitors.  The arts’ contribution to quality of life and economic development was an essential ingredient to positioning the region to compete with other regions seeking to draw a creative and prosperous workforce. Oh, and a reliable funding mechanism would be required for sustainability.  Out of this need, nine local communities stepped up to commit a portion of their hotel/motel tax revenue, and Bravo was born with the immediate task of leveraging these public funds through competitive grantmaking programs for ACH nonprofits in the region. Hotel/motel taxes still fund the organization and with the vibrant reputation of the region driving more visitors, the number of communities investing in Bravo having grown to 17.

Sculpture in DSM USAWhen the findings of the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study were released in June 2017, no one could dispute the significant return on investment. In fiscal year 2015, Bravo granted a little more than $3 million to local ACH organizations. In return, those organizations helped generate $185 million in economic impact for the local economy.

The Arts Continue to Expand in the DSM Community

Bravo is just one of many community partners supporting arts and culture in an effort to build a vibrant community for residents and visitors to work, play, live and visit. The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, to name a few, are key players on the road to creating a thriving region for arts and culture. And the organizations Bravo supports — the more than 70 nonprofits — are the ones doing the work to bring this promise to life every day. They create, nurture, promote and innovate ways arts and cultural experiences can enrich quality of life and sustain a healthy economic impact for the region. If not for these dedicated organizations, programs and individuals who work to build the cultural foundation, none of this would be possible. The vast network of community leaders, business executives, educators, artists and neighbors across multiple disciplines throughout the region use their talents and influence to ensure the arts, culture and heritage industry in DSM will continue to thrive for decades to come.  

Want more? Learn all about living in Des Moines, including details about communities, education, housing, things to do and more.

Maggie Armstrong

Maggie Armstrong has always loved a good story. And as Communications Specialist for Bravo Greater Des Moines, Maggie works to tell Bravo's story of investing in arts, culture and heritage nonprofit organizations to create a vibrant place to work, play, live and visit in Central Iowa.