Iowa arts groups to receive $1.3 million in relief funds

As many arts groups continue to face economic hardships because of COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs will award over $1 million in grants and relief funds.


Katina Zentz

Fans cheer as The Marcus King Band performs at the Englert Theatre on Thursday, November 21, 2019. King is a fourth-generation musician and is traveling with his band on their “El Dorado” tour.

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

As in-person entertainment and arts events return to normalcy across the state of Iowa, various arts and culture organizations continue to face economic challenges because of COVID-19. In response, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs will award $1.3 million in relief funds to various arts groups within the state.

The money will be dispersed through the Iowa Arts & Culture Marketing Grant program, which is funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds originally allocated to the department in 2020.

a total of 118 arts and culture organizations from 47 different Iowa communities will be eligible to receive a one-time grant ranging from $1,500 to $18,000. The grants are also a part of the agency’s promotional campaign based on input from statewide arts and culture leaders: “Re-imagine, Re-engage, Reconnect.”

In a Nov. 5 press release from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Chris Kramer, director of the department, wrote that the marketing grants and the “re-imagine” campaign will help Iowa’s arts and cultural sector during the holiday season, a crucial time for many organizations and businesses.

“This statewide investment will also help boost major exhibits, performances and events now and into the new year,” Kramer wrote.

The recipients include local arts councils, theaters, historical attractions, museums, art centers, and performing arts venues throughout 37 Iowa counties.

Among the 20 Iowa City-based individuals and organizations receiving grant money are local singer-songwriter Elly Hofmaier for her debut album, FilmScene for its reopening, and the Office of the State Archaeologist at the University of Iowa for programming. Other recipients include Hancher, the Englert, and Public Space One. The full list of recipients can be found here.

All recipients are required to spend their awarded money by the end of 2021. For more information about the Iowa Arts & Culture Marketing Grants, those interested can visit

David Schmitz, an administrator with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, said the grants are geared toward marketing and advertising-related costs in Iowa creative sectors, in response to growing demand toward the holiday season. He noted that many groups are spending their grant money on elements like digital and print ads, as well as website development and signage.

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“For a lot of [arts groups], especially the smallest, they may not have much in the way of marketing funds, even in a good year, and this last year has definitely not been a good year,” Schmitz said. “They’re still coming back from the shutdown and closures. This is really an infusion of resources to help them get the word out.”

According to the Department of Cultural Affairs’ press release, Iowa’s creative sector contributes $4.2 billion to the state’s economy every year. More than 43,000 creative employees work across over 5,000 businesses throughout the state. Stemming from closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 4,500 jobs were lost in 2020, as well as millions of dollars in revenue for arts, entertainment, and recreation groups.

Schmitz said, because of these setbacks, the Arts & Culture Marketing Grants are just one of many in a series of one-time relief funds to be administered to Iowa arts and humanities groups in months to come. Another recently announced fund is the American Rescue Plan Arts Grants, which will give approximately $1.5 million to individual artists as well as arts organizations.

Ultimately, Schmitz said the grants are especially crucial because the success of Iowa’s creative groups often spills over to benefit other areas of the state’s economy, including tourism and leisure.

“The arts and culture has been the most impacted industry in our economy throughout the pandemic,” Schmitz said. “There was a need for some unifying messaging that’s positive and that reinforces the brand of arts and culture, which is to build strong communities. So, these grants accomplish that.”