Arts, innovation have strong rural Iowa roots

By Steve Maravetz   Thirty thousand years ago, Neanderthal cave dwellers wriggled their way back into the deepest recesses of caves to paint glorious images of their world: bison, big cats, reindeer and, of course, hunters. The urge that drove them to paint is the same innate instinct that Iowans bring to their own creativity, be it in the traditional arts or in areas such the culinary arts, gardening and shop keeping. I am fortunate to live in Mount Vernon, a town filled with creative people whose self-expressions are the threads with which our community’s tapestry is woven. As in other small towns (our population is about 4,400 including Cornell students), people in Mount Vernon pretty much know each other. In our town, there’s mutual respect and encouragement for the creativity displayed by our neighbors. You don’t need to live in a big city or on a coast to create. In fact, you could make a powerful argument that rural areas punch well above their weight when it comes to innovation. Farmers have always been among the world’s most innovative people, mainly out of necessity. I am convinced many Iowans have a creativity gene that has been passed down the generations, a gene that helped our forebears lighten the crushing workload on the farm. Cream separators, windmills, plows, harrows, planters, cultivators, baling machines, silos and all sorts of labor-saving devices were developed by folks looking for an easier way to do work. With more leisure time, we used it to express ourselves as individuals. For some, this meant staying on the farm but to farm in different ways. Farmer…