John Delaney

Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding Friday at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

The Iowa arts community wants to help the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls understand how the arts can offer solutions to an array of challenges, from health care to education to immigration.

To help drive home that point, singer-songwriter Ben Folds plans to conduct live interviews with the candidates about their plans to advance arts policy during the Iowa Arts Forum on Aug. 15 at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.

“If the arts community wants to move the needle on future support of the arts, then we need to act now to engage candidates on these issues,” said Folds, who chairs ArtsVote 2020, a program of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund.

He already has interviewed five of the candidate for his ArtsVote 2020 podcast.

“We’d like to give candidates a chance to explain their arts policies, if they have them. And if they don’t, we’d like to help them understand what good arts policies can do to strengthen the economy, improve schools, and bridge divides,” added Michael Morain of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Iowa is the ideal place for the forum because “voters have access to the candidates and can elevate the arts to the national conversation,” said Tom Smull, president of the Iowa Cultural Coalition.

So far, candidates John Delaney and Seth Moulton have confirmed they will participate, and the Elizabeth Warren campaign said it would send a surrogate.

It’s not just about helping the candidates understand the importance of the arts, Morain said, but training Iowans to raise arts-policy questions during their interactions with candidates.

In Iowa, according to the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, nearly 5,600 arts-related businesses employ more than 25,000 people.

That includes 479 businesses in Linn County that employ almost 2,100 people and 348 Scott County businesses with nearly 1,800 employees.

Art is a $3.8 billion industry in Iowa or 2.1 percent of the state GDP. That’s nearly half as much as the state’s construction industry, according to the action fund.

The Iowa Arts Forum, from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 15, will be streamed via Facebook Live @IowaArtsCouncil, is presented by Americans for the Arts and its Arts Action Fund, as well as the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, Iowa Cultural Coalition and Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

To register, visitiowaculture.gov.

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