Ben Folds headlines arts-advocacy event in Des Moines

It’s showtime for a national discussion on the arts at the Iowa Arts Forum on Aug. 15 at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.

Popular singer-songwriter Ben Folds will join national and state arts groups who have invited all the presidential candidates to discuss the important role the arts play in the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of communities across the United States. Folds plans to interview the candidates onstage to give them a chance to share their plans to advance arts policy.

The event is also an opportunity to help Iowans advocate for the arts in the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses.

“If the arts community wants to move the needle on future support of the arts, then we need to act now to engage candidates on these issues,” said Folds, who chairs ArtsVote 2020, a program of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund.

Folds has invited all the presidential candidates to his ArtsVote 2020 podcast and has interviewed five so far.

The Iowa Arts Forum, which will be streamed via Facebook Live @IowaArtsCouncil, is presented by Americans for the Arts and its Arts Action Fund, as well as the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, Iowa Cultural Coalition and Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Together, these groups want Iowans to help candidates understand how the arts can help address an array of issues, from health care to education to immigration.

To help, Americans for the Arts has developed an online tool called the Arts and Social Impact Explorer, which shows how the arts can benefit a host of other difficult issues. Art therapy, for example, helps military veterans readjust to civilian life. Arts education inspires students to think creatively.

The arts also help drive the economy. The Americans for the Arts Action Fund has developed a  one-pager on Why the Arts Matter in Iowa to illustrate the economic impact of the arts in Iowa.

“Arts and culture form the foundation of Iowa’s creative economy, which employs more than 25,000 Iowans in 5,000 arts-related businesses,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “Arts and culture inspire us to find new, innovative solutions to compete in our ever-changing global economy.”

Iowa’s arts and culture sector contributes $3.8 billion to the state’s economy and represents about 2.1 percent of the state’s GDP, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nationwide, the arts and culture sector is a $764 billion industry and accounts for 4.2 percent of the GDP.

Arts advocates hope to raise these facts and figures during the current presidential campaign, while the national media spotlights shine on Iowa.

“The arts have inherent value, of course, but they also have an enormous impact on other areas,” Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund President and CEO Robert L. Lynch said. “Even in the earliest democracies, going back to the Greeks, the arts have always been part of the process of dealing with issues, changing attitudes, introducing new ideas and healing in the aftermath of conflict.”

Arts advocates hosted a similar arts forum in Iowa in 2016, following other arts events at the major-party national conventions in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

“It’s especially important to hold events like this in Iowa, where voters have access to the candidates and can elevate the arts to the national conversation,” said Tom Smull, president of the Iowa Cultural Coalition.

After this year’s forum, Folds will join the Violent Femmes for a concert at 6 p.m. at the new amphitheater at Water Works Park in Des Moines.

Iowa Arts Forum with Ben Folds

When: 1-5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15

Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., Des Moines

Admission: Free

Online registration:

Iowa Arts Forum: A Community Conversation

A locally focused event with state and national arts leaders is scheduled a day earlier in southwest Iowa.

When: 2:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14

Where: Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum, 300 N. 16th St., Clarinda

Admission: Free

Online registration: