Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA)

Governors Arts Leadership

Governor Tom Vilsack was first elected Iowa’s 39th governor in 1998. Through the governor’s leadership, the state launched the Vision Iowa Program, which has had a significant positive impact on 188 communities through investments in education, as well as cultural and recreational attractions. Vision Iowa has used $270 million in state funding to attract $2 billion in total investment, creating 14,000 jobs and attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists to the state. Under the governor’s leadership and during a time when the state budget was stretched tightly, the state was able to establish the Iowa Cultural Trust, which will eventually provide dedicated general operating support funds for Iowa arts organizations.

Vilsack was able to establish a program certifying Cultural & Entertainment Districts in communities across Iowa—these neighborhoods become mixed-use areas where a high concentration of cultural activities occur. The program acknowledges that the presence of arts and cultural opportunities enhances property values, the property value of surrounding businesses, and the tax base of a region. The governor also initiated the development of, which responds to Iowa artists’ requests for more opportunities to display and sell their work by establishing an online store, operated by the state’s arts agency, offering CDs, paintings, crafts, and books by a juried list of Iowa artists.