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Iowa Arts Council awards Virtual Arts Experience grants

Jan 6, 2021

The Iowa Arts Council today announced $81,708 in Virtual Arts Experience Grants have been awarded to 14 nonprofit organizations and one school across the state.

The new grant program was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and replaces the Iowa Arts Council’s traditional grants for field trips and other in-school arts experience programs during the current fiscal year. The funding will help Iowans of all ages experience the arts through online learning.

“Arts organizations and educators across the state are developing innovative ways to inspire students and learners of all ages,” Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. “The Iowa Arts Council is delighted to support their ongoing efforts through these grants.”

As a part of the adaptive programming, educators from the Virtual Arts Experience Grant recipients can participate in a skill-building professional-development opportunity developed by Yen Verhoeven of the Qi Learning Research Group. This multi-part training will help educators to be effective in developing online arts learning resources and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) related programs.

The Virtual Arts Experience Program is supported with funding appropriated by the Iowa Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts. The training is being developed through a public-private partnership with the Iowa Arts Council, Bravo Greater Des Moines and Qi Learning Research Group. 

The list of grant recipients is below:

Cedar Rapids: The Eastern Iowa Arts Academy received $3,078 to present virtual art classes for high school students in the autism program at Washington High School.

Cedar Rapids: The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library received $10,000 to offer 15 virtual music performances by local artists for K-12 music classrooms and aging adults in care centers. Participating students and aging adults will engage in a virtual pen pal program. Students will submit music-related questions to adult learners who will record their responses with the help of care center staff.

Cedar Rapids: Playtime Poppy Children’s Theatre received $5,000 and will partner with the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library to design a series of virtual arts-integrated storytelling programs led by local teaching artists.

Davenport: The Quad City Symphony Orchestra received $10,000 to expand digital access to its annual Symphony Day program and four chamber ensemble performances as well as in-house recorded sessions with QCSO teaching artists to use as classroom education engagements.

Davenport: River Music Experience received $2,500 to revise and revamp its popular RiverCurrents school music education programming and broaden its impact to more schools throughout the region.

Des Moines: ArtForce Iowa received $10,000 to partner with Jonny Stax Creations to provide a 4-part justice, equity, diversity and intersectionality professional development training for artists and youth workers serving youth beyond the margins.

Des Moines: City Voices received $1,005 to launch an online course with Des Moines Public Schools to help students and aspiring actors build skills to help them audition for college programs and pursue careers in musical theater.

Des Moines: Civic Music Association received $3,125 to introduce Voices of Freedom to Des Moines high schools in collaboration with the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archive. Voices of Freedom teaches music, dance, theater, writing and visual art while analyzing the role of jazz in the fight for racial justice in American history.

Des Moines: Girls Rock! received $5,000 to support multimedia arts programming, digital production equipment, online apps and platforms, album production costs, instructors and more for young women to create original songs and do live, monthly performances, including a final showcase.

Des Moines: The Greater Des Moines Music Coalition received $10,000 to expand virtual offerings for their after-school classes by providing equipment, instruments and supplies for students to use at home. 

Grundy Center: The Grundy Center Elementary School received $500 to hire artist Dale Santoiemma of Waverly to virtually teach cartooning skills to 265 students from kindergarten to fourth grade.

Iowa City: The Englert Theatre received $10,000 to promote writers of color through a weekly podcast.

Iowa City: FilmScene received $1,500 to create "Black Lives on Screen" and "FilmScene 101: The Black Image in Comics." Both programs will explore the diversity of the Black American experience as portrayed on screen and envisioned by filmmakers of color.

Sioux City: The Sioux City Art Center received $5,000 to work with Sioux City art teachers on a video that will introduce the venue, curators and the creation of exhibitions to students.

Waterloo/Cedar Falls: The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra received $5,000 to create a Virtual Education Program for elementary age students in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls school districts.

Applications were accepted and grants were awarded in two rounds, in November and December 2020. The Iowa Arts Council is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Learn more about the Virtual Arts Experience Grant program 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.