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Iowa Arts Council announces Governor's Arts Awards

Aug 12, 2020

A living legend from Osceola, a nonprofit group from Postville and the city of Malvern were honored with the 2020 Governor's Arts Award during the virtual 2020 Iowa Arts Summit on Friday.

The Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, presented the awards on behalf of Gov. Kim Reynolds to Mary Ellen Kimball of Osceola; Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development, in partnership with the Byways of Iowa Foundation; and the city of Malvern. The awards recognize and honor individuals, organizations and communities that have had a significant impact on the vitality of the arts in Iowa.

"As we celebrate the arts in Iowa, it's a pleasure to recognize this year's award recipients for the impact they have had on their communities and across the state," Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. "Whether it has been serving organizations, leading fundraising efforts or connecting people to the arts, this year's award recipients have been at the forefront of improving cultural vitality and quality of life in Iowa."

A list of this year’s Governor's Arts Award recipients follows:

Category: 2020 Governor's Arts Legacy Award
Recipient: Mary Ellen Kimball
Mary Ellen Kimball of Osceola is a legend in the Iowa arts community through her decades of work and service to arts and culture across the state. She currently serves as chair of the Iowa Cultural Trust, where she has helped develop a giving model that supports more organizations with limited funds. She has served on the Iowa Arts Council Board of Trustees and is a community leader who hosts artists, leads fundraisers and ensures the arts remain vibrant in Iowa. Kimball is a gifted artist herself and has personally supported a long list of cultural and arts organizations, including Iowa Stage Theatre, Des Moines Arts Center, Des Moines Metro Opera and many more.

Category: 2020 Governor's Arts Award – Nonprofit Award
Recipient: Northeast Iowa RC&D
In 2015, Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development, in partnership with the Byways of Iowa Foundation, launched the Byways of Iowa Public Art Initiative. Funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts "Our Town" program, the Northeast Iowa RC&D hired Iowa-based artists to develop, fabricate and install unique public art pieces in 15 Iowa communities. The project was completed in 2019 with more than $250,000 raised through the support of more than 100 private, local, state and federal contributors. Together, the 16 installations create a body of art that epitomizes the culture and character of communities along Iowa's scenic byways. Learn more at

Category: 2020 Governor's Arts Award – Community Award
Recipient: City of Malvern
Over the last few years, Malvern has evolved into a rural arts and cultural destination in southwest Iowa where tourists can experience Zack Jones' ever-evolving Project Art Church; creative businesses, including an art gallery and paintings and pottery studio; and a new mural and outdoor art. The community also attracts tourists who gather on Saturday nights for live music at the Malvern Concert Series and Market. According to the Malvern Area Betterment Association, "with three fun places to eat, including art in each location, visitors feel connected to Malvern and its people."

The awards were presented during the virtual 2020 Iowa Arts Summit Friday, when more than 250 state and national arts professionals, community leaders and advocates gathered online to network, learn and celebrate the arts in Iowa. The summit was presented by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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.