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Four Iowa high school seniors receive scholarships for the arts

May 7, 2020

While Iowa schools are closed for the rest of the year, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is helping four graduating high school fine arts students prepare for the future.

Claire Graham of Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Fort Madison, Darien Dennis of West Marshall High School in State Center, and Aidan Drake and Aviana Gedler of Valley High School in West Des Moines have received the Iowa Scholarship for the Arts from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

The award is given annually to Iowa high school students with a proven artistic ability in dance, creative writing, music, theater, traditional arts or visual arts who plan to attend an Iowa college or university during the next academic year and pursue a major in the arts. Each student will receive $1,500 for their 2020-2021 college tuition and related expenses as a full-time undergraduate at a fully accredited Iowa college or university.  

"We are delighted to recognize these students for their exceptional artistic ability and to know they will pursue their education right here in Iowa," said David Schmitz, administrator of the Iowa Arts Council. "An education in the arts will give them opportunities to develop their creativity and critical-thinking skills as they pursue their hopes and dreams for a career in the arts."

The list of this year's Iowa Scholarship for Arts award recipients is below. More information about their educational pursuits and artistic visions is available online at

Fort Madison
Claire Graham of Holy Trinity Catholic High School will study English at the University of Iowa. Drawing inspiration from Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and Oscar Wilde, she will immerse herself in the literary culture of Iowa City and plans to share her knowledge with others as a published author and teacher.

State Center
Darien Dennis of West Marshall High School will study fine arts at the University of Iowa. Her works range from two-dimensional illustrations to acrylics paints and pastels that use color, shape, timelessness and nature to express thoughts and emotions of confidence, wonder, joy and anticipation.

West Des Moines
Aidan Drake of Valley High School will study art education at the University of Iowa. Her artistic passion centers on semi- and hyper-realistic portraits that are often inspired by photorealism. She aims to channel her energies into a career as an art educator and show children their full potential and creativity.

West Des Moines
Aviana Gedler of Valley High School will pursue a degree in music at Southwestern Community College. She plans to develop a career in music performance in an orchestra or as a singer while teaching at a public school.

The Iowa Scholarship for the Arts program was founded in 1986 with proceeds from a benefit concert by world-renowned opera singer and Centerville native Simon Estes as well as contributions from organizations and private citizens to ensure outstanding young artists continue to be recognized and educated in Iowa.

More information is available at

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.