It’s now been four years since the state’s biggest natural disaster – the flood of 2008 – and many cities and towns in eastern Iowa are still years away from a full recovery. In Iowa City, several buildings on the University of Iowa campus were destroyed and many of the tenants are still without a permanent home.
UI Museum of Art executive director Sean O’Harrow says they’ve placed exhibits in temporary locations around Iowa City, while sending some pieces to other art museums around the state. “We’re kind of using this temporary situation as an opportunity to reach other parts of the state,” O’Harrow says. “This is kind of new for a museum and I think it’s very interesting. But, having said all of that, having a permanent home is important because logistically you need to have a (headquarters) for storage, display and other logistical and operational purposes.”
In addition to the Museum of Art, new buildings are needed to house the UI music department and a performance hall to replace Hancher Auditorium. O’Harrow says working with FEMA is very complicated. “It’s such a torturous and prolonged process,” O’Harrow said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get started on something but, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never seen such kind of morass of horrible bureaucracy in my entire life. I can’t even believe we face these kind of troubles when we have natural disasters.”
Around two-million square feet of the University of Iowa campus was impacted by flooding in 2008. Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General recommended reversing FEMA replacement decisions on three UI flood recovery projects – but UI spokesperson Tom Moore said there’s been no de-obligation of funding and officials are continuing with plans to replace the facilities away from the flood plain.