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Iowa Arts Council names five new Iowa Artist Fellows

Sep 8, 2021
Honored artists hail from Ames, Des Moines, Dubuque and Waterloo

Five Iowa artists have been selected by the Iowa Arts Council for competitive fellowships in recognition of their exceptional creativity, innovative work and career readiness.

A panel of Iowa arts professionals selected writers Paul Brooke of Ames and Emma Murray of Des Moines, photographer Brittany Brooke Crow of Des Moines, printmaker Louise Kames of Dubuque and filmmaker Francesca Soans of Waterloo from a pool of more than 50 applicants and 21 finalists.

Each Iowa Artist Fellow will receive a $10,000 grant to advance their career, promotional support, and in-depth training from Strategic Planning Partners, one of the country’s leading providers of professional development for artists.

“We’re proud to recognize and support our new Iowa Artist Fellows as they continue to develop their careers and contribute to the vitality of the arts in Iowa,” Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said.

The fellowships are designed to elevate the arts across the state by advancing the artistic careers of Iowa artists, filmmakers, musicians and creative writers. In addition to grants, professional development and promotional support, fellows also virtually participate in "Meet the Artist" public programs at various arts and cultural venues throughout the state.

The Iowa Arts Council created the Iowa Artist Fellowship Program in 2014 to support professional, active Iowa artists who are at a pivotal point in their careers. To date, a total of 40 Iowa artists have been selected for the program, with numerous alumni going on to earn additional grants and fellowships, to present and publish their work at leading venues and in significant forums, and to receive greater recognition at the national level.

Here are more details about this year’s Iowa Artist Fellows:

  • Paul Brooke is a professor of creative writing and literary theory at Grand View University and the author of six books, including “Light and Matter.” Originally from Minden, Iowa, Brooke combines his love of photography, nature and poetry in stirring ways, connecting himself to the natural world to gain insight into human behavior, with themes tied to the destruction of natural places, the preservation of wild lands and the protection of wildlife. He is currently working on a book called “Finding Meteorites in Antarctica.”
  • Brittany Brooke Crow makes images to confront her fear of vulnerability by exploring intimacy, ways of seeing and the expansive possibilities of photo-based art. In 2020 she turned the camera toward herself to investigate what happens to our understanding of the representation of the body when the artist and model are one and the same. With support from a previous Iowa Arts Council grant, the culminating installation, “Exhibition(ist),” questioned what it means to see and be seen. She is currently based at Mainframe Studios in Des Moines.
  • Louise Kames is a professor of art at Clarke University in Dubuque where she chairs the Art and Design Program. Her drawings, prints and installations are exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions across Iowa and the Midwest region. She was one of two artists whose work was selected for the 2018 Iowa Women’s Art Exhibition in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office at the capitol. Kames is currently working on a series of pastel and charcoal drawings, prints on fabric veils and images transferred to pages of a prayer book – all inspired by small piles of sticks and leaves routinely gathered by a Dubuque nun in the early stages of dementia.
  • Emma Murray is a writer whose works of poetry and creative nonfiction can be found in or are forthcoming from Entropy, Bennington Review, wig-wag, The New Territory and elsewhere. She helps run an arts and community collective called ILK HAUS, teaches Iowa State University STEM students how to harness the power of storytelling, and is deeply interested in music. Most recently, she has been working on a podcast, “Dear Casey,” about the long-distance dedications in Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown – tracking down the writers for a “where are they now?” check-in.
  • Francesca Soans is an award-winning filmmaker and associate professor of digital media at the University of Northern Iowa. Her films and videos explore place, memory and identity and have been shown worldwide at competitive film festivals, art galleries and conferences, and on public and cable television channels. Her film “Notes Towards a History” received the Directors’ Citation from the prestigious Black Maria Film and Video Festival, and her film “Rebirth” received awards from the Iowa Motion Picture Association and a nomination for Best Iowa Film by the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival. Her pioneering documentary “Sons of Jacob Synagogue,” co-directed with historian Robert Neymeyer, received numerous awards, including the Loren Horton Community History Award from the State Historical Society of Iowa and a Silver Remi from Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival.

More information about the Iowa Artist Fellowship Program can be found at

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its 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. 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.