DES MOINES, Iowa – More than 200 Iowa organizations and individuals working in arts and culture, film and media, and history and historic preservation will receive a boost from $2.3 million in grant awards announced Thursday by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
The grants are funded through the annual appropriations passed by the Iowa Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds, effective July 1, 2021. The state’s investment is enhanced by funding from two federal agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and administered by the department’s three divisions: the Iowa Arts Council, State Historical Society of Iowa and Produce Iowa, the state office of film and media production.
“The annual funding has never been more important than this year’s investment, which will help fuel the resurgence of Iowa’s arts, film, heritage, humanities and creative sectors,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “Audiences and visitors are eagerly returning to museums and historic sites, concerts and cultural festivals this summer, even as our industry continues to rebound from substantial financial losses from the pandemic.”
Iowa’s arts, entertainment, and recreation industry lost 4,500 jobs between February 2020 and April 2021, according to figures from Iowa Workforce Development. Iowa’s nonprofit arts and culture sector lost nearly $50 million, according to Americans for the Arts.
In a typical year, arts and culture employ more than 43,000 Iowans and account for 2.3 percent of the state’s economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In this round, the department made 244 grant awards for community initiatives and creative projects across the state, arts and cultural organizations, individual artists and filmmakers, and historic preservation efforts in 46 counties and 71 communities.
The department also designated 58 of Iowa’s leading arts and cultural organizations as Cultural Leadership Partners, a competitive process that occurs once every three years. Cultural Leadership Partners receive annual operational support in recognition of their role as community and cultural anchors that maintain high standards of excellence, generate tourism and support high-quality jobs.
“The quality and diversity of art being made and presented across our state is remarkable,” Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. “Even during the pandemic, Iowa artists and arts organizations found new ways to create and connect to Iowans, often in ways that brought them closer to the communities they serve. We’re only beginning to see the results of these strengthened relationships.”
The grants announced today are divided into the following three general categories:
Arts & Culture Grants
This year, the Iowa Arts Council awarded $1,632,495 in grants to 192 projects across the state.
In response to the pandemic, the Iowa Arts Council consolidated some of its previous grant programs into a new Iowa Arts & Cultural Resilience Grant program to give individuals and organizations more flexibility. With a focus on accessibility and inclusion, the Iowa Arts Council also hosted online office hours, conducted interviews with applicants via videoconferencing, and increased the diversity of its volunteer grant review panels. Here are a just a few of the new grant recipients:
- Dawson Davenport of Iowa City received $3,600 to create an online video series, in partnership with the Midwest Writing Center, that focuses on education and storytelling about Indigenous peoples through poetry.
- Royce Johns of Elkhart received $5,000 to record his first full-length album at the famed Wishbone Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and to embark on an Iowa tour.
- The New Century Art Guild in Elk Horn received $5,000 to develop a series of public art exhibitions, called “Walls of Honor,” created by military veterans.
- In addition, Iowa Artist Fellowships were awarded to Paul Brooke of Ames, Louise Kames of Dubuque, Francesca Soans of Waterloo, and Brittany Brooke Crowe and Emma Murray, both of Des Moines. Each fellow receives a $10,000 grant plus professional development opportunities to advance their careers.
Film & Media Grants
Produce Iowa, the state office of media production, awarded $164,870 to five Greenlight Grants for film and digital media productions that will be produced in Iowa.
Now in its third year, this program encourages Iowa filmmakers to build a more robust film and media industry in Iowa. The grants can be used to produce features, shorts, pilot episodes or proof-of-concept videos to help propel a script to the screen. Eligible projects must be ready for production and demonstrate public value. Here are this year’s five recipients:
- Brendan Dunphy of Ames received $25,000 for a documentary tentatively titled “In The Footsteps of Foxes,” about a man’s extraordinary relationship with a family of foxes.
- Rebecca Haroldson of Urbandale received $10,000 to produce “In Luck,” a female-centric comedy web series that features two millennial friends as they experience the awkwardness of life, love and family.
- Tyler Hill of Iowa City received $50,000 to develop “Happy to Have You,” a narrative feature film about a Chinese immigrant’s new life in Iowa, presented as a contemporary drama with romance and dark humor.
- Kevin Kelley of Iowa City received $32,000 to produce “Standing Strong: Elizabeth Catlett,” a short documentary about the African-American artist who was mentored by Grant Wood and earned the University of Iowa’s first Master of Fine Arts degree for a visual artist.
- Hannah Rosalie Wright of Des Moines received $47,870 to produce “Daughters,” a trilogy of short dramas about three women who navigate jobs, families, and romance.
The State Historical Society of Iowa awarded $550,946 in 47 grants for research projects as well as other projects supported by the Historical Resource Development Program, funded through the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) funds, to preserve historical collections, invest in communities through historic preservation and promote Iowa history. Here are a few examples:
- The city of Dubuque received $30,000 to conduct an in-depth survey about local African-American history from the 19th and 20th centuries.
- The Iowa Jewish Historical Society, based in Waukee, received $19,324 to document and expand its collection of oral-history interviews with Jewish Iowans, recorded over the last 40 years.
- Liberty Hall in Lamoni received $4,500 to repair and paint its one-room school, which served students from the 1870s through 1930.
- Polk County Conservation received $25,000 to create an exhibition at the Jester Park Nature Center in Granger about Iowa’s geological, anthropological and archaeological past.
- The Siouxland Historical Railroad Association in Sioux City received $32,250 to study archaeological artifacts from a railroad construction camp and to create online educational resources about transportation-related archaeology.
- In addition, 17 historians from nine states and the Czech Republic each received $1,000 to research various topics in Iowa history, including 1920s flappers, Jay “Ding” Darling’s conservationist cartoons, and Camp Hantesa in Boone. The resulting articles may appear in the Annals of Iowa, the quarterly journal published by the State Historical Society of Iowa.