A lecture and recital series that traces the origins of various musical genres created by women. An exhibition about the earliest sketches and paintings of central and western Iowa paired with contemporary photos of the same locations. Another exhibition about underrepresented communities in Iowa.
These are three of the 31 projects that will receive a Humanities Project Grant, according to an announcement today from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The statewide grant program supports public humanities projects and educational programs that encourage contemplation, spark conversation and invite communities to explore the human experience.
The department received 40 eligible applications and awarded a total of $364,769 in grants.
Funding for the new program comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency, which last year recognized the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs as its interim state humanities council partner in Iowa.
“The humanities help us understand human and cultural experiences and how we connect with one another in meaningful ways,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to award these funds for innovative programs that strengthen communities and deepen interdisciplinary learning for students across the state.”
The list of grant recipients spans 17 Iowa cities, including Arnolds Park, Council Bluffs, Dubuque and Muscatine. Grants were awarded to historic sites, museums, community groups, colleges and universities, libraries, and organizations that focus on culture and art. Six notable projects that received funding follows:
- Prairie Rivers of Iowa in Ames was awarded $8,394 to create a traveling exhibit that introduces residents and visitors to the early years of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental improved road, which spans Iowa from the Mississippi to the Missouri rivers.
- James & Meryl Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls was awarded $5,000 to host an established traveling exhibition titled "Our Town: Reclaiming the Narrative." The show reframes Iowa history by collecting and sharing stories of underrepresented Black communities in Iowa.
- The University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls was awarded $15,233 to produce a 60-minute documentary and podcast on KBBG Radio, the state’s largest Black-owned radio station. Funds will help cover the costs of audio/video recording, honoraria for humanities consultants, promotion and community outreach.
- The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids was awarded $17,000 to develop a public lecture series titled “Immigration and Democracy: The Timeless Human Journey,” which will engage leading humanities scholars and explore immigration through historical and contemporary perspectives.
- Historic General Dodge House in Council Bluffs was awarded $2,600 to develop an exhibit of 40 sketches and paintings by George Simons, which are among the earliest images of central and western Iowa. These images will be displayed with contemporary photos Buck Christensen shot of the same locations.
- Girls Rock Des Moines was awarded $20,000 to develop a lecture and recital series to educate participants about the origins of various musical genres that were created by women. Recordings of the series will be turned into a podcast.
To date, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, in its role as the state’s interim Iowa Humanities Council, has awarded more than $1.6 million to support the humanities in Iowa, through multiple rounds of relief and recovery grants and the new project grants.
In tandem with the grants, the department recently conducted listening sessions with humanities leaders across the state to better understand their interests and ideas in the fields of art, culture, humanities, history, historic preservation and film in Iowa.
The grants also coincide with two of the department’s other major initiatives: a year-long commemoration of Iowa’s 175th statehood anniversary and a promotional campaign to encourage Iowans to “Re-imagine, Re-engage and Reconnect” with local history, arts and culture.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the State Historical Society of Iowa, including the State Historic Preservation Office; the Iowa Arts Council; the interim Iowa Humanities Council; and Produce Iowa, the state office of media production – empower Iowans to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting to the people, places and points of pride that define our state.