Iowa Arts Council connects local artists to global market

Amy Uthus — Photo courtesy of the Iowa Arts Council

Your vision has come to life. Now what? Find partners who can help you, such as the Iowa Arts Council. YogaIowa talks with Michael Morain, the communications manager for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and a former arts reporter for The Des Moines Register.

YogaIowa: How has Iowa’s arts landscape changed in the past decade, and what does the future hold?

The internet has flattened Iowa’s arts landscape more dramatically than any glacier ever scraped our farmland way back when. Artists in Iowa can compete on an even playing field with their counterparts in New York or Paris or any of the other places artists used to go to prove they were serious. Now all it takes is a little gumption and some gear — a laptop and a digital camera — and anyone can jump into the global art market.

This new flatter world benefits Iowa’s arts consumers, too. Curators bring international artwork to the Des Moines Art Center or Davenport’s Figge Art Museum. Concert programmers book the brightest stars to the Orpheum in Sioux City or the Tree Town Festival in Forest City.

The challenge now is to expand the successes of Iowa’s bigger cities to its smaller towns. Artists have always been attracted to low costs of living, but a high quality of life is important, too. Small towns have plenty of elbow room, but they also need energy and economic growth. It’s a tricky balance.

Woody Jones — Photo courtesy of the Iowa Arts Council

How does the Iowa Arts Council help both emerging artists and established artists?

Since its founding 50 years ago, the Iowa Arts Council has offered training opportunities and an array of grants funded with matching support from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts. Last year, in fact, the Arts Council distributed 232 grants for projects in 545 locations statewide, and $1.6 million of those grants leveraged an extra $2.3 million in local matching and in-kind support.

The projects can be smallish, like a community mural or a school trip to a museum. Or they can be bigger, like the annual Iowa Artist Fellowships that offer experienced artists professional-development workshops and a $10,000 grant to boost their careers to the next level.

What is the Iowa Arts Summit, and how can people participate in 2018?

Every other year, hundreds of Iowa artists and arts advocates swap ideas with each other and with national experts on a variety of issues: grant writing, community engagement, marketing, the whole works. Details about the next summit, set for summer 2018, will be posted in the spring at

What might some people be surprised to learn about Iowa Arts Council?

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the IAC, offers a free Iowa Culture mobile app that maps more than 3,500 arts, history and culture sites across all 99 counties in Iowa. Just download it from Apple or Google Play, or launch the desktop version, to learn all kinds of cool stuff on your next road trip — or your next trip to the grocery store.

This article was originally published in YogaIowa’s Summer 2017 issue.


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