Strengthen Grow Evolve Campaign celebrates $5 million milestone

Last April, the campaign set a goal to raise $6 million by the end of 2020. On Oct. 1, the campaign announced that it has reached $5 million.


Nichole Harris

The marquee outside of the Englert theatre is shown with Mandolin Orange headlining on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

Since its launch last April, the Strengthen Grow Evolve campaign fueled The Englert and Film Scene’s efforts to make Iowa City the Greatest Small City for the Arts. As of Oct. 1, the campaign had officially raised $5 million of its $6 million goal.

The capital and programmatic campaign was launched collaboratively by FilmScene and The Englert Theatre, with an initial goal to raise $6.5 million by the end of 2020. The number has since been reduced because of COVID-19, according to an Oct. 1 press release.

“It is truly because the community has taken hold of the vision of building the Greatest Small City for the Arts that we have been able to reach this tremendous milestone,” said Nina Lohman, associate development director for the campaign, in the press release. “It’s an exciting time to be part of the campaign and to witness the completion of so many groundbreaking endeavors.”

The campaign supports both The Englert and FilmScene in their efforts to cultivate Iowa City as the Greatest Small City for the Arts. The funds provided for the completion of projects at FilmScene, following its opening in the Chauncey building last fall, said FilmScene’s interim Executive Director and the campaign’s Associate Director Andrew Sherburne.

The Englert has undergone its own construction since the spring, including the revamping of its marquee, stage wall, windows, and upstairs space. Although construction and restoration projects were delayed a little because of the August derecho, they are in their final stages, said Englert Theater Marketing Director John Schickedanz.

“It was a fairly novel idea that two different art organizations would work in tandem to be able to meet their goals like this,” Schickedanz said.” It really is pretty extraordinary the amount of art we have access to here and we really see the campaign propelling our two organizations into a future where Iowa City can be the Greatest Small City for the Arts.”

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Before the campaign, The Englert and FilmScene were working independently, but Strengthen Grow Evolve gave the organizations a chance to form a working relationship. It also gives them room to think outside the box about what the community needs as far as the art scene is concerned, Schickedanz said.

“It enabled us to look at the work we do in a new way,” Schickedanz said. “The Englert has really made an evolution from being seen as the historic theater where art happens to this organization that cultivates art in our community.”

The campaign’s funding also helped FilmScene develop its location The Chauncey on E. College Street, and make plans to improve comfort and technology at its Ped Mall location, Sherburne said.

As a nonprofit organization, FilmScene depends heavily on the support of the community, Sherburne said. While the staff can’t connect like it typically would with theatergoers, it’s still finding ways to do so through virtual screenings.

“We have a community of engaged art supporters. I think it’s just in the water here,” Sherburne said. “Arts organizations are only as healthy and vibrant as the communities in which they reside. We’re really fortunate to live in a town that cares so much about the arts and sees the value in it.”