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Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs invests $1.5 million in building creative places

Jan 10, 2023

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs today announced it has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to leverage local infrastructure projects and engaging programs that build culturally vibrant communities across the state.

The $1,573,997 in grants come from the department’s Iowa Great Places, Strengthening Communities, School Arts Experience, Artist Catalyst, Creative Places Project, Folk Arts Learning and Humanities Collaboration programs.

“Across Iowa, these projects are connecting Iowans to arts, culture and heritage programming and their local communities’ authentic character,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “They represent the quality of life people value today when choosing culturally vibrant places to live, work and raise their families.”

The grant funding aligns with the department’s strategic goals:

  • Cultivate and promote creative places, grow Iowa’s creative economy and workforce, and build the capacity of our cultural organizations.
  • Preserve and enhance access to Iowa arts, culture, film and history.
  • Provide dynamic lifelong learning opportunities while igniting creativity and innovation.

Building creative places through infrastructure

Iowa Great Places

Four Iowa Great Places will share a total of $1,050,000 awarded through the Iowa Great Places program, which recognizes communities that have developed bold visions around their creative and cultural assets and formed plans, partnerships and projects to make them a reality.

The four FY2023 recipients announced today include:

  • Cedar County received a total award of $348,700, which includes a challenge-matching grant for the renovation of the Hardacre Theater, a community icon in downtown Tipton that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The City of Indianola received $73,300 for the “Wonder on Buxton,” a project envisioned by the community to connect Simpson College to its downtown square. Project funding will support new sculptural installations and improvements along Buxton Street, creating a vibrant area that invites visitors and celebrates Indianola’s cultural identity.
  • The Turkey River Recreational Corridor was awarded $328,000 for the renovation and rehabilitation of the Motor Mill Inn Historic Site in Clayton County. The project aims to protect the Inn from flooding, return the historic structure to its original state, provide meeting rooms and overnight accommodations for travelers, and house a small visitor center for historic and cultural education purposes.
  • The Boone Forks Region received $300,000 to help complete a transformational vision that capitalizes on the popularity of outdoor recreational tourism and the region’s natural and cultural assets. Grant funds will be used to install interpretative signage along the region's three state-designated water trails and will support permanent exhibitions at the River's Edge Discovery Center, a new 13,000-square-foot conservation education center located at the confluence of the Des Moines River and Soldier Creek.

Strengthening Communities Grants

The department also awarded $250,000 in Strengthening Communities grants, which will benefit three Iowa communities: Burlington, Mason City, and Spirit Lake.

Strengthening Communities grants support facility renovation and construction projects that promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility in communities with fewer than 28,000 residents. The grants are made possible by an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

The three FY2023 recipients announced today include:

  • Burlington Area YMCA: This grant supports a building renovation providing an inclusive, safe and accessible, ADA-compliant environment in locker rooms for all current and future members. Grant Award: $93,048
  • Camp Foster YMCA: Grant funding will construct a new building that will serve as a visitor center and repurpose an existing building into a health lodge that will better serve campers, visitors, and staff. Grant Award: $78,476
  • Mason City Family YMCA: This multiphase project will replace a roof that is original to the building. Grant Award: $78,476

Enhancing arts accessibility and creative workforce

School Arts Experience, Artist Catalyst and Creative Places Project

The Iowa Arts Council also awarded a total of $84,784 through the latest two rounds of three quarterly grant programs: School Arts Experience, Artist Catalyst and Creative Places Project grants. The small matching grants are intended to help jump-start creative projects in the classroom or community and support artists with their career development needs. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Perry Economic Development, which will create a permanent mural on the western edge of downtown showcasing the community’s historic and cultural assets. Grant award: $2,500
  • The Hawarden Area Arts Council, which plans to welcome visitors with a new community artwork that will replace a mural that was lost in a fire. Grant award: $2,000
  • The Wilson Performing Arts Center in Red Oak, which will introduce K-8 students to theater by bringing a visiting performer to three southwestern Iowa schools this spring. Grant award: $2,500
  • West Liberty Community School District, which will enhance its after-school instrumental music program Mariachi Los Cometas. Grant award: $850
  • Hip-hop artist Antonio Chalmers from Cedar Rapids, who plans to record, distribute and market an album called the "Black Excellence Project." Grant award: $2,500

Preserving cultural heritage

Folk Arts Learning grants

The Iowa Arts Council, a division of the department, awarded Folk Arts Learning grants to help sustain artistic traditions and cultural heritage in the state. Funding for the program comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The list of this year's recipients includes:

  • Mary Young Bear, Tama, will introduce programming featuring master artists Daniel and Mary Young Bear to provide 10 hands-on training sessions in Meskwaki beadwork techniques for two apprentices at the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County. Grant award: $5,000.
  • The Sawmill Museum, Clinton, will present an advanced class on Norwegian drakestil wood carving and a beginner class on kroting and svide led by master artist Rebecca Hanna. Grant award: $5,000.
  • Museum of Danish America, Elk Horn, will bring in an experienced pressman to teach staff how to use an early-20th century Chandler and Price letterpress for workshops and demonstrations. Grant award: $2,850.
  • The Fort Madison Area Arts Association will use its grant to support “Spoonfest,” a two-day spoon-carving festival to be held in June in Fort Madison. Grant award: $5,000.

Humanities Collaboration Grants

Finally, acting in its role as Iowa’s state humanities council, the department awarded $186,761 through its Humanities Collaboration Grants program. Humanities Collaboration Grants support humanities projects that encourage contemplation and spark conversation, while engaging the community through collaboration between Iowa humanities organizations, institutions of higher education and schools. Funding for the grants comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency. Here are just a few highlights:

  • During its centennial season in 2023, Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines, will present "Once Upon This Stage," a tribute to some of the first people and cultural luminaries to appear in the historic theater 100 years ago. Grant award: $17,750
  • Public Space One, Iowa City, will collaborate with the Global Food Project on a publication and a public event to spark conversation around food and cultural identity in the context of migration. Grant award: $5,300.
  • The Grout Museum District, Waterloo, will create and install a permanent transitional exhibit detailing the arrival of Bosnian refugees in Waterloo during the 1990s, which will include artifacts, artwork and firsthand accounts of refugees' experiences. Grant award: $26,000

More information about these and other grant programs is available 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 Iowa Humanities Council; and Produce Iowa-State Office of Film & Media – empower Iowans to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting to the people, places and points of pride that define our state.