The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Veterans Commission Update

By Andrea Baumgartel

To the excitement of many local Grinnellians, Mayor Gordon Canfield filled the two previously vacant seats in Veterans Memorial Commission this past Monday, Feb. 20. The two new appointees are Gwen Rieck, who assumes the role as Vice Chair and is a former U.S. Air Force nurse; and Marie Andrew, who will be the recording secretary and who served in both the U.S. Army as well as the Iowa Army National Guard.

Before these positions were filled, the commission was left it in limbo and unable to consider the future of the vacant Veterans Memorial Building that holds a great deal of meaning in the hearts of community veterans and non-veterans alike.

The one obstacle remaining is the resignation of Chad Rose — leaving yet another vacancy to be filled by the Mayor. However, with the reinstitution of two more gender-balancing seats, immediate decision-making was allowed to commence at the first meeting following the commission’s multi-month dormancy.

Most notably: the decision to accept Tom Lacina’s proposal to transform the building into a nationally-recognized artist residency.

Lacina, a local lawyer, farmer, art aficionado and former Grin City Artist Collective property owner drafted, in the words of Canfield, “the most fleshed-out plan we have.” In his proposal, Lacina outlines a specific vision for the building.

Currently, Lacina proposes to use funds from a tax levy, set for November 2017, as well as grant-writing to renovate the building into a space where around two to three dozen artists per year could set up their own working space, synthesize and collaborate with other artists, and let their creative processes flow for the benefit of the public. The residency will very much be grounded in honoring veterans, by encouraging and favoring all veteran applicants, although non-veteran applicants would still be accepted, as well as potentially forging more opportunities for local veterans to engage in art themselves.

“The artists could meet and interact with the community and engage in Central Park, downtown and school activities and public events. The artists might provide shows at spaces downtown, participate and encourage art and music therapy, attend potlucks and other social events in Central Park, be involved in college activities, and work with youth programs at our schools and in our many youth organizations,” Lacina wrote in his now-accepted proposal.

The attitude of freshly-minted commission member Andrew is positive, but practical. “The proposal seems like a viable one. I do know that art therapy and music work for veterans and other people,” she said.

However, Andrew very much emphasized that this is a plan that will take a lot of money and a lot of work — from everyone.

“If the community can raise the money, then yes,” Andrew said when asked of her overall approval of the plan. “But we need people to get involved. We still need more veterans, especially the younger ones, and other people in the community to participate. It has to be a combined effort.”

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