Kim Poam Logan Has the Floor
Neighborhoods thrive where art thrives
Culture, arts and…affordable housing. Strange bedfellows or a natural partnership? We caught up with Metro Arts Alliance Executive Director Kim Poam Logan following this year’s 32nd Jazz in July series and first ever Neighborhood Passport program to ask her that question. The discussion also uncovered personal insights that no doubt contribute to her passion in working to provide arts to all.
Q: The Neighborhood Passport was developed to educate and advocate for affordable housing while encouraging attendance at Jazz in July events. Most people wouldn’t have thought of a partnership like the one created between Metro Arts Alliance and the Polk County Housing Trust Fund’s Can I Be Your Neighbor campaign. Your reaction?
A: I thought it was, and is, absolutely brilliant! We are both working to strengthen our community and contribute to creating a quality of life for everyone. So whether it’s access to affordable housing or access to affordable arts experiences, we are both working at a very personal level to improve peoples’ lives.
Q: Do you have a personal connection to art or music? Or an early memory of it in your life?
A: At age 10, drawing became an unexpected salvation. Our family left Cambodia during a time referred to as the Cambodian holocaust. The Khmer Rouge believed that in order to achieve the ideal communist model, all Cambodians must be made to work as laborers in one huge federation of collective farms and anyone in opposition must be eliminated. That meant the killing of all who were educated or successful. In 1980 my family escaped to Oskaloosa, Iowa where I was assigned to 2nd grade because of my size. (I was very small for age 10.) I did not speak English and they did not have ESL classes back then. Every day the teacher provided me with crayons and paper and I drew valleys and flowers and the teacher would hang them up around the classroom. I would also check out books with beautiful pictures and slowly both the words that I heard and the words that I saw began to make sense and I became an avid reader.
Q: I recall reading somewhere you studied abroad and ended up with a double degree in French and English from Central College and the University of Paris La Sorbonne. What influence did that have?
A: It’s interesting how time and perspective adds meaning to things. I realize now that it was in Paris that I first experienced art as something that was intended to be created by and enjoyed by all – people from all walks of life – rich and poor. As a student, I was definitely on the poorer end of that scale yet experienced operas, museums, incredible architecture and music festivals, as did everyone. It was a common, shared experience intended to enrich everyone’s lives.
Q: How do you see that developing here?
A: Metro Arts Alliance brings “Art where you are.” That’s what we strive to do every day – collaborate with program partners throughout the metro to bring art, in its many forms, to people where they live - in their corner of the world, their neighborhoods, their schools and their workplaces. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy our Jazz in July series so much. People from all walks of life come together. Some have lived in the area all their lives, others are visiting that neighborhood for the first time – but collectively you can see they share a common appreciation for the experience of art through jazz with their friends, family and neighbors.