Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg met with downtown business owners Doug and KC Wortman, along with Anamosa City Administrator Jacob Sheridan Sept. 9 for a tour of the old Thou Art Gallery that was destroyed in the downtown fire in Anamosa back in 2017.
The Wortmans, in partnership with the City of Anamosa, were awarded a community catalyst grant to help bring the building back to life. Gregg has been focused a lot on Empower Rural Iowa initiatives and, as part of that, likes to take the opportunity to tour some of the buildings to get a sense of how the programs are working.
Gregg said his tours could take place anywhere in the catalyst process, from when the grant was awarded, when the work was in progress, or after all the work was completed. The gallery fell into the second category, as it was very much a work in progress. The Wortmans took Gregg through the main floor and showed him where classes would be taking place and local artwork would be put on display, then down through the basement where they are hoping to put a pottery space, and finally the upstairs apartment space.
It was in the final area where the impact of the fire could be best felt, as walking up the stairs into the apartment, the faint smell of smoke still lingered and the walls were still charred.
The Wortmans discussed the fire with Gregg, as well as their plans for the renovation, including reemphasizing the historical aspects of the former bank. Highlighting that was one of the main goals of the grant projects and funding like it.
“I think there is so much history and so much character in our small town, and a lot of it is in these small towns. If there’s a way that we can repurpose them, make something old new again, I think it brings a different type of vitality to our downtowns,” Gregg said.
Making state funds available for projects like this or the façade grant that the city plans to apply for next year and seeing the dollars get put to good use is what the grants were all about.
“It’s great to see the funding have a meaningful impact, especially in our rural communities,” Gregg said, though he added they were always looking to learn how things could be improved.
When asked about possible improvements, the Wortmans said they thought the process went rather smoothly. Sheridan said getting information out to the public that these types of programs to both educate them on the funding sources available to them and ease concerns.
Gregg left Anamosa encouraged by what he saw in a number of ways.
“I love to see citizens of Iowa making investments in their communities,” he said. “But also, it’s a public-private partnership. The city has been involved, the state has been involved…and to me, it demonstrates the power of partnerships.”