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Writer, Musician, Filmmaker and Two Visual Artists Named 2017 Iowa Arts Council Fellows

Jul 12, 2017
Iowa Arts Council 2017 Fellows Ceremony: Iowa Arts Council Administrator Matt Harris, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Mary Cownie, 2017 Iowa Artist Fellows Jack Meggers, Rachel Yoder and Lee Running, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. Not pictured: 2017 Iowa Artist Fellows Jennifer Drinkwater and River Breitbach.

Artists from Ames, Des Moines, Grinnell, Iowa City and Rickardsville Receive Award

DES MOINES - A writer, musician, filmmaker and two visual artists will wear the crown of 2017 Iowa Arts Council Fellow for the next year, each receiving access to professional development opportunities, promotional support to enhance their careers, and a $10,000 grant to support new works.

A panel of of Iowa arts professionals selected River Breitbach of Rickardsville, Jennifer Drinkwater of Ames, Jack Meggers of Des Moines, Lee Emma Running of Grinnell and Rachel Yoder of Iowa City as this year's fellows, who were ​honored ​Friday during a ceremony with Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg at the State Capitol.

“Iowa has a proven track record of developing talented artists. In return, these individuals use their abilities to strengthen our state’s cultural vitality,” Gov. Reynolds said. “I’m proud to recognize these five artists as our newest Iowa Arts Fellows and am eager to hear about the incredible experiences they’ll have over the next year.”

“More Iowans recognize the important role the arts play in improving quality of life across our state,” Lt. Gov. Gregg said. “Iowa has nearly 6,000 art-related businesses that employ nearly 23,000 people. The governor and I are proud to support artists who choose to build their careers in Iowa and commit to contribute to our communities.”

In addition to grants, professional development and promotional support, fellows also participate in Creative Capital's Core Weekend Professional Development Program, one of the nation's premier artist professional development programs, and will participate in "Meet the Artist" public programs at various arts and cultural venues throughout the state.

The Iowa Arts Council created the multi-discipline Artist Fellowship Program in 2014 to support professional, active Iowa artists who are at a pivotal point in their careers and who demonstrate exceptional creativity and the capacity to contribute to the excellence and innovation of the arts in Iowa.

More information about this year's Iowa Arts Council Fellows follows:

River Breitbach, a musician from Rickardsville, creates inclusive works that examine social and environmental issues and celebrate death and loss as a natural part of life. 

River Breitbach was born at home in Dubuque and began his musical career at the age of 2 on the violin. Blessed with the good fortune of a family that nurtured his love for music and performance, he has become a powerhouse multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with more than 20 years of experience performing throughout the Midwest. His original folk-pop music draws on the traditions of conscious lyricism and political relevance to deliver performances steeped in honesty and kindness that engage listeners of all ages and endorse the idea that music can serve as medicine.

Jennifer Drinkwater, a visual artist from Ames, creates public works that transform viewers into participants, making the passive act of viewing interactive. 

A Mississippi native, Jennifer Drinkwater is an assistant professor with a joint appointment between the department of art and visual culture and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has a Bachelor of Arts in both studio art and anthropology from Tulane University and earned a Master of Fine Arts in painting from East Carolina University. Her paintings have been exhibited nationally in juried and group shows, and she has had solo exhibitions in Iowa, New York, Illinois, Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Her work has been featured in New American Paintings and Studio Visit magazine. Her personal work and teaching often explore how we bring artwork from the studio into the world and, accordingly, how this work can both build and shape community.

Jack Meggers, a filmmaker from Des Moines, uses the medium to create complex explorations of family, culture, spirituality and history. 

Jack Meggers grew up in Mason City and Clear Lake. He earned his bachelor's degree from Iowa State University before moving to New York City where he began his career in stage theater. During his seven years in New York, Jack turned his attention to cinema and moved to Los Angeles where he began his film career in earnest, learning the craft of filmmaking by acquiring hands-on experience in every department. His first short film, "Frigid," was selected to the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. He also directed and produced several music videos for bands in the Los Angeles area. In recent years, he was the studio manager at Quixote Studios, home to the long-running TV series “Criminal Minds.” His current venture, which brings him back to his home state, is his feature-film debut, currently entitled "The Burial."

Lee Emma Running, a visual artist from Grinnell, creates works with inscriptions of universal patterns found in nature to better understand human relationships within the ecosystem.

Lee Emma Running makes installations and sculptures inspired by natural phenomena, working with animal bones, paper, fabric, fur, raw pigments and gold. She moved to Iowa City in 2001 to apprentice with papermaker Timothy Barrett at the University of Iowa Center for the Book where she learned to analyze materials and processes as well as maintain the discipline of a fine craft. Running is an associate professor at Grinnell College and has done artist residencies at Jentel in Wyoming, Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, the Santa Fe Art Institute in New Mexico and the Vermont Studio Center in Vermont. Her work has been exhibited at the Des Moines Art Center, the Charlotte Street Foundation, the Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 1999 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in 2005. She is represented by Olson-Larsen Galleries.

Rachel Yoder, a writer from Iowa City, uses writing, performing and editing to examine multiple layers of the creative process. 

Rachel Yoder is a founding editor of draft: the Journal of Process, a literary journal that features first and final drafts of stories, essays and poems along with author interviews about the creative process. She also hosts The Fail Safe, an interview podcast produced in collaboration with the Iowa Writers’ House that explores how today’s most successful writers grapple with and learn from failure. Her writing has been awarded the Missouri Review’s Editors’ Prize in both fiction and audio; as a finalist for the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award; and with notable distinctions in Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading. A graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, she is currently at work on an autobiographical collection of stories based on growing up Mennonite and leaving that community.

The Iowa Arts Council is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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.