FilmScene and Englert awarded grant to highlight Black artists

The Englert Theatre and FilmScene were among 14 nonprofit organizations and schools to receive an Iowa Arts Council Virtual Arts Experience Grant, which they will use to highlight Black artists. FilmScene will fund two films, and Englert will use the grant to create a new podcast.



The outside of Filmscene is seen on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.

Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

For their upcoming spring virtual seasons, the Englert will launch a new podcast celebrating Black writers and FilmScene will be able to fund two films highlighting Black creators thanks to the Virtual Arts Experiences Grant.

Last month, the Iowa Arts Council awarded $81,708 in Virtual Arts Experience Grants to 14 nonprofit organizations and one school across the state of Iowa. FilmScene and the Englert received the Virtual Arts Experience Grant to further their 2021 programming.

With their $1,500 grant, FilmScene will fund the creation of “Black Lives on Screen” and “FilmScene 101: The Black Image in Comics.”

Executive Director and Cofounder of FilmScene Andrew Sherburne said he found it meaningful that the Iowa Arts Council and the state are interested in the sort of program they’re funding through the Grants.

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“I think that shows that everyone who’s invested in Iowa’s cultural programming is on the same page; that we need to adapt to the time we’re living in, and there’s work to be done to make sure we’re serving everyone,” Sherburne said.

“Black Lives on Screen” and “FilmScene 101: The Black Image in Comics,” are narrative and documentary feature films created by independent producers across the U.S.

According to Sherburne, both films will be available to the public through licensing agreements with distributors, and in partnership with the University of Iowa Cinematic Arts Department. The process of putting these films on is similar to that of their in-theater process, just through a different channel, he said.

FilmScene’s partnership with the Cinematic Arts Department gives them the opportunity to provide these films the widest audience possible. Through FilmScene, the films will be available to the public without licensing issues that the university otherwise would run into.

As for the Englert, the grant provided $10,000 to promote writers of color through a weekly podcast titled the “Writers of Color Reading Series.” The podcast is set to launch in March as part of their upcoming virtual season.

“We are facing another year with greatly reduced earned income and the Virtual Arts Experience Grant has allowed us to design the Writers of Color Reading Series as a free weekly podcast, removing barriers for participation for anyone interested in digging in,” Development Director of the Englert Katie Roche said.

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The funds from the grant will go toward honorariums for 40 writers from around Iowa, technical and administrative staffing of Iowa-based arts workers for podcast production, investments in marketing and promotion for the series, and supplies and equipment, Roche explained.

The 40-episode podcast will provide listeners the opportunity to learn from perspectives that deepen or broaden their own experiences of Iowa and the world. Episodes will include readings, background information on each writer, and their artistic processes.

Roche said the new program will continue their promise to the community to evaluate how their values, such as inclusion, matches with the actual outcomes.

Englert Marketing Director John Schickedanz said he prioritizes diversity in every program the theater puts on, and the new podcast is no different.

“We try to look at our program holistically to make sure we’re providing a platform for diverse voices, and that’s not just race, or nationality, or sexual orientation. We really try to encompass the entire spectrum of what diversity means,” Schickedanz said.