In the coming months residents of Clinton and the surrounding communities are invited to bring their ideas and expertise to the development of a comprehensive regional cultural plan. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 1:30 p.m., the Sawmill Museum will host an exploratory meeting for those interested in helping to identify priorities and determine the scope and structure of the plan.

This will be the first in a series of meetings and community conversations aimed at providing an organized vision for strengthening and promoting arts, history, heritage, recreation, and other cultural assets in the Gateway. The more input we have from those involved professionally or personally in this sector the better, but all area residents who believe that strong cultural offerings contribute to the quality of life are also welcome to contribute.

The idea of adopting a comprehensive cultural plan has been germinating for quite some time, but really began to take shape in preparation for the visit from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs delegation in October.

The Clinton Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Grants and Legislative Committee had previously arranged one-off meetings with state officials from the Iowa Arts Council and the State Historical Society of Iowa, and welcomed the opportunity for a more substantial interaction with various state agencies when it was approached to schedule the meeting with the DCA. The meeting itself was essentially a showcase of the cultural offerings in the area and a discussion of how the state might be a better partner with our community. The prospect of a cultural plan was also brought up and received support from the DCA, especially as it became clear how much the various cultural actors in the area rely on each other.

In recent years there have been many areas of collaboration between organizations and individuals to highlight the unique cultural and physical appeal of the area. Our location on the Mississippi River and at a historic crossroads for rail, road, and water transport positions our community to turn culture into a sustainable economic engine. The abundance of facilities, amenities, place-making events, and regular cultural programming provides an underlying support structure that holds tremendous potential in attracting visitors and retaining residents.

The shared history and existing relationships within the local cultural community offer a wonderful opportunity to identify those cultural treasures that are under-utilized, under-appreciated, and at-risk of disappearing altogether.

So my appeal to you is this: if you believe your history and heritage matters, if you think access to art, music, and theater are essential, if you recognize the need to preserve our natural and built legacy, if you appreciate the notion of collaboration and common cause, and if you think all of the cultural offerings you enjoy (and more) should be available to your children and grandchildren, then please consider attending the meeting on Dec. 14 and participating in the extended planning process.

This is a distinct opportunity to shape the quality of life in your community and people of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. Those interested may RSVP to me at bwiles@clintonpubliclibrary.us or 242-9115.

Brad Wiles is the director of the Clinton Public Library and came to library work through his interest in historical research and archives administration. In his infrequent spare time, he takes on writing and service projects related to the preservation of historical resources and the importance of cultural heritage within communities.