The Spencer Arts District should be designed with these goals in mind:

These goals will be accomplished through a leadership group doubling as a vehicle for collaboration by the District arts organizations and through providing the resources to support and supplement existing organizational marketing and promotion activities.

It is very important to note that the activities of the Arts District will be based on the needs of the participating artists, arts organizations, and other businesses. The District provides an opportunity to collaborate and work together to raise the profile of arts and culture in Spencer – it is not a competing entity.


In order to best achieve the above goals, the Arts District should be formed as either a nonprofit, a program area of an existing nonprofit such as SPACE, or a city initiative. In any scenario, the Arts District should be led by a board of directors (or, if not structured as a standalone 501(c)3, an advisory board) with representation from the following organizations:

Anchor Organizations:

  • Arts on Grand
  • Spencer Community Theatre
  • Clay County Heritage

Government & Other Organizations:

  • Spencer Alliance for a Creative Economy
  • Spencer Public Library
  • Spencer Community Schools
  • City of Clay County
  • Spencer Main Street
  • Clay County Fair
  • Iowa Lakes Community College
  • Music Connection


  • Business leaders from major local employers
  • Art students in high school and Iowa Lakes Community College

The Board of Directors will be an active board – each member should be expected to:

  • Serve as advocates for the District
  • Attend steering committee meetings
  • Model the type of collaboration among organizations associated with the Arts District
  • Chair task forces and committees when needed
  • Enlist family, friends, and larger network to attend events and volunteer
District Management
District Management
District Management


The initial administrative costs of the Spencer Arts District should be minimized to make sure these costs are not taking away from potential funding for the District organizations. This plan envisions the hiring of a District Coordinator and marketing costs as the only significant expenses initially. While hiring a coordinator may not be feasible in 2019, the sooner this person is hired, the sooner the District will have a full-time advocate to implement the goals.

It is anticipated that District activities may grow over time. Long-term, hiring additional staff will be necessary to expand and support District activity, but it will also be up to the responsibility of the District to produce revenue-generating events to cover additional costs over time. To begin, the District has two initial budget needs:

  • District coordinator salary – estimated at around $45,000
  • Promotional materials – estimated at around $10,000
  • ** Additional information on funding structure is available in Appendix C.

We recommend the city of Spencer contribute $20,000 for the first three years, with the remaining revenue to be raised through programs and fundraising. During those three years, the Arts District should begin to implement additional revenue-generating programs to supplement the city contribution, and that contribution should end after year three.

In order to minimize costs, we recommend the coordinator find donated office space from an existing arts or civic organization or from the city.

According to a study by Americans for the Arts, 57% of local arts agencies in communities with less than 50,000 people had at least one paid staff member, and the average staff size is 2 people. On average, those agencies found 25% of their support through fundraising, 28% through earned revenue (programs), and 37% through state, local, and federal governments (with an additional 7% in-kind and 3% misc.)

*Full study information available in Appendix D



Identify a working group of artists, arts nonprofits, community leaders, business leaders, and city officials. “Working” is the key word – these individuals will be responsible for specific assignments – this is not a place for figureheads

Spencer Steering Committee + others in the community, including:

  • Jim Vermeer
  • Local artists and artisans
  • Art teachers, art students in high school and Iowa Lakes Community College
  • Local creative business & Main Street business owners
  • Local art lovers and patrons
  • Members of local arts and culture groups, councils, guilds, leagues, agencies, and nonprofits.
  • Staff members from city/council level, including: City Manager, Economic Development officials, Travel / Tourism, Public Works, Planning and Zoning, Parks & Recreation, Public Safety, etc.
  • Elected officials, including Mayor, Council members, etc.
  • Local media/reporters

*    this list is adapted from the Colorado Creative Industries’ “Call Yourself Creative” toolkit available here.

*   A Steering Committee Example Guide is included in Appendix E

Build on the Steering Committee formed in this Action Plan. Determine meeting frequency, sub-groups, and leadership roles in sub-groups.

April 2019


Apply for Iowa Great Places re-designation

Arts District working group, City Staff, Main Street, Chamber of Commerce

With a deadline of May 1, this will be a quick turnaround, but the Working Group should work towards this deadline as an opportunity to kickstart Arts District Projects. The Spencer Great Places designation must be re-designated by this time. Please see Appendix F for more information.

May 1, 2019


Determine working boundaries of the Spencer Arts District

Arts District working group, City Staff

Incorporate Riverfront into previous Cultural District map; reach out to stakeholder list for possible additional inclusion of other spaces. Communicate with building owners and tenants of district designation; hold several open house meetings to discuss plans and spur commitment for district-wide events.

June 2019


Determine legal entity status

Arts District working group

Determine organizational structure and level of commitment. Transition from a loosely affiliated informal working group to one of the following options:

  • New independent organization – Stand-alone, legal organization as a 501(c)3 with new Board of Directors; – we recommend this approach
  • Housed within an existing organization, such as Spencer Alliance for a Creative Economy (SPACE); or
  • A city initiative

June 2019


Designate Spencer Arts District Board of Directors

Arts District working group, City Staff

Ensure representation from anchor organizations, city & civic organizations, and artists and business leaders in the community. Establish board guidelines and mission and vision for Spencer Arts District.

September 2019


Establish Spencer Arts District

Board of Directors, City Staff

Determine the optimal city ordinance and language to designate the Spencer Arts District.

September 2019


Hire District Coordinator

Board of Directors

Once enough has been raised, hire a District Coordinator. This is a mid-level management role, for which marketing, program coordination, and grant writing experience will be key.

Late 2019 / Early 2020


Apply for the Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District designation

Board of Directors, partner organizations

Determine lead applicant (Arts District), and roles of partner applicants. Solicit letters of support from elected officials, business owners, artists and arts organizations. Create a public awareness campaign and invite citizen participation in compiling the cultural district vision. Work with city staff to incorporate information from the Toyer Economic Development Plan and the RDG Spencer Riverfront Plan.

Spring 2020 (application due May 1)

Please see Appendix G for more information.