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Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Announces New Iowa Great Places and Cultural & Entertainment Districts

Aug 26, 2020

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced today that seven Iowa communities will receive support through two creative placemaking programs that help regions attract investment, tourism and quality-of-life enhancements.

The department has designated Indianola and Stanton as new Iowa Great Places and has re-designated the Sixth Avenue Corridor in Des Moines. The state agency also designated Cultural and Entertainment Districts in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Elkader and Spencer.

“It’s my pleasure to welcome these communities into the Iowa Great Places and Cultural and Entertainment District programs,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “Now more than ever, these state investments will generate economic growth in rural and urban areas where Iowans have developed bold visions for the future and formed the plans and partnerships to make those visions a reality.”

Arts and culture are key components to community success, according to a recent report from the National Governors Association. The nationwide study showed, for example, that rural counties where arts- and design-driven businesses thrive tend to attract more workers and more vigorous economies.

“Right now, we know many Iowans are still getting back on their feet from the pandemic and the devastation caused by the recent windstorm,” Kramer said. “As Iowa communities rebound, programs like these offer hope and show how arts, culture and historic districts can make communities more resilient.”

The Iowa Great Places program recognizes communities that cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of their local places – neighborhoods, districts or regions – and make them attractive places to live and work. Those qualities include arts and culture, architecture, business incentives, the diversity of the community’s residents, historic assets, housing options and the natural environment. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs partners with leaders of the Iowa Great Places communities to build their visions for future development.

The department has invested nearly $21 million in a total of 44 designated Iowa Great Places since the program’s creation in 2006, leveraging local and private investment to drive economic growth. Funding for the program comes from the Iowa Legislature through an annual appropriation from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

Meanwhile, the Cultural & Entertainment District (CED) program designates areas that are already recognized as hubs of cultural activity through a concentration of arts facilities, creative businesses and gathering places. Iowa currently has 13 designated CEDs.

The Iowa Great Places and CED programs are administered by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

“The Iowa Great Places and CED programs help Iowans build upon those local qualities and attractions that create a real sense of place and identity, which ultimately drive tourism and economic development,” Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said.

Iowa Great Places Descriptions and Contacts


Indianola’s cultural assets, including the National Balloon Classic and National Balloon Museum, Des Moines Metro Opera and Simpson College, contribute to its sense of place and quality of life. Long-term plans, developed with input from residents, call for establishing an art center and creating an art corridor to connect downtown and the college campus.
Contact: Lorin Ditzler, Indianola Hometown Pride or 515-442-0723


In recent years, Stanton residents have seen new and creative businesses spring up downtown, alongside iconic symbols of the community’s Swedish heritage. A new events center opened last year, and plans for adding public art are in the works.
Contact: Jenna Ramsey, Stanton Community Development Director or 712-829-7340

Sixth Avenue Corridor in Des Moines

The Sixth Avenue Corridor was first designated as an Iowa Great Place in 2014. The 1.2-mile long corridor links downtown Des Moines to the city’s north-side neighborhoods and is among the most racially and ethnically diverse areas in Iowa. A major streetscaping project is expected to continue a renaissance shaped by new businesses and grassroots organizing by neighborhood organizations.
Contact: Breann Bye, Executive Director, Sixth Avenue Corridor Urban Neighborhood Main Street Program or 641-521-9340

Cultural & Entertainment Districts
Ames – Ames Main Street

Ames Main Street is a natural gathering space and a hub of art, culture, and entertainment for the entire Ames community. Highlights include the Octagon Center for the Arts; Iowa State University's Design on Main; the local historical society, farmers’ market and public library; and an array of green spaces, public art, housing, shops, restaurants and bars. The entire district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including notable buildings such as City Hall, YSS Building, Sheldon Munn Hotel and Main Street Station.
Contact: John Hall, or 515-232-2310

Cedar Rapids – Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District

The Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District has strong roots in Czech and Slovak history and arts. District highlights include the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, African American Museum of Iowa, the historic J.G. Cherry Building with its loft-style studios artists, and the NewBo City Market, which features 20-30 start-up businesses. The district is also home to CSPS Hall, which builds community through art, music and theater.
Contact: Abby Huff, or 319-432-9785

Des Moines – The Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand

The Avenues offer a robust mix of arts, history, culture and commerce with iconic attractions such as Terrace Hill, Hoyt Sherman Place and Salisbury House. A highlight of the district is the pre-war architecture along a half-mile stretch of art galleries, boutiques, music venues and ethnic restaurants. Nearby attractions include the Des Moines Art Center and its Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the Des Moines Community Playhouse and soon-to-be-restored Varsity Cinema.
Contact: Kris Maggard, or 515-689-4445

Elkader – Main Street Elkader

Main Street Elkader has a variety of arts and cultural attractions, including Sharp Art Gallery, G's Closet & Gallery, Arthur Geisert art and print-making studio, Treats on Bridge Street Bistro Gallery, Twisted Alley, and Elkader BNB Gallery. The city also has an impressive collection of public art, including murals, 3-D installations, and the Art in the Alley project. Downtown Elkader's listing on the National Register of Historic Places includes 62 contributing sites and 11 sites that are listed on the register in their own right, including the Historic Opera House, the Carter House Museum, and Keystone Bridge.
Contact: Kate Lower, or 563-245-2770

Spencer – Spencer Arts District

The Spencer Arts District is home to more than 100 businesses, including 30 retail shops, 61 service businesses, 13 spots for food and drinks, and 10 nonprofits. The district hosts a full events calendar, including exhibitions at Arts on Grand and Clay County Heritage, shows at Spencer Community Theatre, and concerts hosted by the Spencer Performing Arts Coalition. Both Clay County Heritage and the Spencer Community Theatre are celebrating their 60th anniversaries.
Contact: Stephanie Horsley, or 712-262-3304

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.