UI Celebrates Flood Recovery Milestone

By Diane Heldt, Reporter


By Jay Knoll

IOWA CITY, Iowa - A University of Iowa celebration Friday -- complete with a march to jazz music -- marked an important milestone and the beginning of an exciting phase in flood recovery for the arts campus, officials said.

The event, filled with music, speeches and thank yous, commemorated not only the five-year anniversary of the 2008 flood and its impact on the UI campus, but also the status of three building replacement projects that have entered the "visible" phase of construction work this summer, university leaders said.

"It seems like it's been a long time in coming," UI President Sally Mason said. "Today marks a new beginning for our campus."

More than 100 people attended the "Arts & Minds: A Celebration of Partnership" event, kicked off by music from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band -- the first act to perform in Hancher Auditorium when it opened in 1972.

Mason and other university officials voiced their thanks to the local, state and federal elected officials and others who have helped the university on its road to recovery.

"The partnerships that have brought us together today have brought us to this major point, and these partnerships are not just about building new buildings, but they're also about re-envisioning how to live with the river," Mason said.

The support of many individuals and groups, officials said, allowed the university to keep a focus on recovery, and site work has begun or will begin soon on the three replacements totaling more than $400 million: a new Hancher Auditorium, School of Music and Art Building, all scheduled to open in 2016. The university will raise $30 million in private money toward those projects, with much of the cost covered by the federal government.

It's a big moment for UI art students and faculty, as they look forward to a new facility in three years, said Steve McGuire, professor in the School of Art and Art History. The new Art Building will provide the newest tools and space geared toward collaboration.

The past five years haven't been easy for displaced art and music faculty, staff and students, faculty leaders said. But they've found alternative sites and temporary homes with university support, and now they see the light at the end of the tunnel, said School of Music Director David Gier.

"There is really something special about seeing the physical manifestations begin," he said of the site work starting.

Friday's celebration of what is to come is a reminder that the university, the community and the state will continue to support world class arts and culture, said Hancher Director Chuck Swanson.

"People have been waiting for this for so long," he said. "To hear them talk about it, to hear people get excited about it, that just makes me very happy."

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