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Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announce $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Grants

Nov 10, 2021

From Council Bluffs to Davenport and Mason City to Centerville, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs today announced it is awarding more than $1.5 million in grants for the return of the state’s arts, culture, history and creative sector by supporting arts and cultural jobs and programming in the humanities.

In total, 236 individuals and organizations – representing 70 communities across 56 Iowa counties – will benefit from $1,527,814 in one-time grant funding, made possible through the agency’s state/federal partnerships with Arts Midwest, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities with federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The department received more than $4.1 million in requests to help support a portion of about 1,600 arts jobs.

The list of grant recipients includes individual artists, cultural centers, museums, local government and community groups, arts organizations, public libraries, historical societies, community theaters, media production organizations and more.

“It’s encouraging to see the return of the arts and culture sector, part of the broader tourism industry working to rebound after a challenging year,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “We’re proud to be able to award these grants through our agency’s state/federal partnerships.”

“These recovery grants represent a significant investment in Iowa’s creative workforce,” Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. “In addition to the grants awarded directly to artists, many arts organizations received support to hire or bring back artistic personnel, many of whom lost jobs, gigs and income during the pandemic.”

The grants coincide with a promotional campaign the department launched to encourage Iowans to “Re-imagine, Re-engage and Reconnect” with local arts and culture. With input from creative leaders across the state, the department developed a campaign toolkit to help Iowa’s arts and cultural organizations market to visitors and promote exhibitions, performances and events now and into the next year.

The department awarded $283,734 in American Rescue Plan Arts grants to 76 individual artists, made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Here are a few of them:

  • Ames: Visual artist Cameron Gray will continue his “More than Monoliths” series, featuring the work of Black artists and creatives, through online interviews, videos and an in-person panel discussion in Ames in spring 2022.
  • Decorah: Multimedia artist Darla Erickson will complete a series of videos demonstrating her jewelry fabrication and engraving processes, to complement her presence in juried art fairs and studio visits.
  • Dubuque: Visual artist Thomasin Ringler will develop a small-scale casting studio, complete a new body of sculptural work and host public metal pours in spring 2022.
  • Fairfield: Musician Lauryn Shapter will use the grant funds for recording original music and video production as part of a touring show across Iowa and the United States.
  • Iowa City: Filmmaker John Richard will complete a documentary film exploring what "home" has meant for members of a neighborhood during the pandemic and how our relationship to our dwellings continues to evolve.

The department awarded $602,000 in American Rescue Plan Arts grants to 113 arts and cultural organizations, made possible with support from Arts Midwest and the National Endowment for the Arts. Here are a few of them:

  • Cedar Falls: The University of Northern Iowa’s ​​Community Music School will sustain positions that are critical to its public music programs – including the Horizons Band, Children’s Choir and group lessons – which currently serve 22 Iowa communities.
  • Cedar Rapids: Mirrorbox Theatre will expand the role of artistic director – its first full-time paid position – and manage the renovation of a dedicated facility for presenting contemporary theatre.
  • Davenport: The Azubuike African American Council for the Arts will increase paid hours for its artistic staff and expand its impact by delivering more arts programs to under-represented and at-risk youth and community members.
  • Des Moines: The After School Arts Program will expand its corps of teaching artists to help meet the demand for high-quality arts programs for children who may not otherwise have access to such opportunities outside of school.
  • Jefferson: Jefferson Matters and the Tower View Art Team will hire an Iowa artist to produce its sixth rooftop art installation downtown. The rooftop murals are designed to be viewed from the Mahanay Bell Tower, named a top Iowa tourism attraction in 2021.
  • Mason City: Main Street Mason City will hire several mural artists as part of its “Building Our Brand” mural project that places art and design front and center in downtown Mason City.

The department awarded $642,080 in American Rescue Plan Humanities grants to 47 humanities organizations, made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Here are a few of them:

  • Centerville: The Appanoose County Historical Society will maintain a contracted curator position to manage the collections at the Appanoose County Historical and Coal Mining Museum and promote the museum to visitors through special tours and events.
  • Dubuque: The Julien Dubuque International Film Festival will sustain two positions that are essential for its fall and winter educational series and annual April festival, which has been named among the top 25 film festivals in the country.
  • Elk Horn: The Museum of Danish America will sustain a full-time position to provide humanities-based publications, online content and programming, including several exhibitions that travel across Iowa and the United States.
  • Muscatine: The Muscatine Art Center will develop its next strategic plan to better understand the local community’s needs and impressions of its programs, which are built around the center’s collection of world-class art and local history, all housed in a historic home.
  • Pella: The Pella Historical Society will leverage grant funds to help maintain its full-time staff, as it continues to rebuild from income losses during the pandemic, and to share Dutch history and heritage with the world.
  • Sioux City: The Sioux City Art Center will continue its efforts to develop engaging online content, building on a new website and video series launched in 2021, and expand its community outreach and engagement.

In a typical year, Iowa’s creative sector generates $4.2 billion for the state’s economy, employing more than 43,000 creative workers across 5,000 arts, cultural and creative businesses statewide. After the pandemic triggered closures, event cancellations and layoffs, the state’s arts, history and cultural sector is still working to recover.

Funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities follows the federal agency’s decision last year to recognize the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs as the state’s interim Iowa Humanities Council.

The department and its divisions – the State Historical Society of Iowa, the interim Iowa Humanities Council, Iowa Arts Council, and Produce Iowa: State Office of Media Production – administered the grants announced today.

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.