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State Historical Society of Iowa

Artists, Students and Leaders to Solve Community Problems

Dec 20, 2018

DES MOINES – Cities and towns across Iowa face all sorts of challenges that seem impossible to solve – about public safety, for example, or pollution or social justice.

But artists can help. They are trained to see things in different ways and can offer innovative solutions. That’s why the Iowa Arts Council fosters relationships between civic organizations, arts organizations and individual artists – to help communities solve problems.

“Artists have so many interdisciplinary skills that thriving communities need,” said Chris Kramer, acting director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the Iowa Arts Council. “Whenever artists support communities and vice versa, that’s a win-win.”

With that in mind, the Iowa Arts Council has teamed up with Iowa’s three state universities to offer a program called Arts Build Communities. Every other year, three Iowa communities receive a $10,000 grant along with brainstorming and technical assistance from students and faculty from the University of Iowa’s Office of Outreach and Engagement, the Iowa State University College of Design, and the University of Northern Iowa.

The successful community applicants for the 2019 spring semester are:

  • The city of Fort Dodge, which will work with Iowa State University to address challenges related to garbage and recycling in the city’s downtown district.
  • The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health, which will work with the University of Iowa to increase the visibility and safety of bus stops on a busy road in Plymouth.
  • The Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa, which will work with the University of Northern Iowa to break down language barriers in an outdoor community space in Des Moines.

Funding for the Arts Build Communities program is made possible by an annual appropriation from the Iowa Legislature to the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.