Grant aid announced for Iowa arts and cultural organizations

(The Center Square) – One million dollars of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds through the CARES Act will fund the safe reopening and marketing for arts and cultural organizations, officials announced Friday.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs will distribute grants ranging from $1,500 to $20,000 through a new Iowa Arts & Culture Marketing Grant program, according to the news release. Organizations may apply by Oct. 11 for spending by Dec. 31 on creative and marketing advertising strategies that publicize reopening and what steps are being taken to ensure safe experiences while they are “rebounding” from COVID-19 related closures, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said in the release.

The news release also announced arts and cultural organizations, including performing arts venues, museums, film and cultural festivals, historical sites and others, “are participating in a statewide campaign by sharing promotional materials through print, digital and social media.”

“This summer we heard from many of you about a need for positive and unifying messaging about the essential role that arts and culture play in Iowa communities,” Kramer said in an issue of the department’s Iowa Arts & Culture Marketing e-newsletter that The Center Square received Friday. “We also heard about the need for additional marketing resources.”

The department developed a campaign toolkit with RBI Marketing “to encourage Iowans to ‘RE-IMAGINE, RE-ENAGE and RECONNECT’ with local arts and culture,” the e-newsletter said. The e-newsletter encouraged organizations to integrate the campaign graphics in advertisements and share it on social media, update offerings and open hours with Travel Iowa, arts agencies and CVBs, publicize their participation using a media release template, and use the key messages included with their upcoming events announcements.

“The absence of live performances, festivals and community events last year reminded people just how much arts and cultural experiences matter,” Kramer said. “They give meaning and joy to our lives, connect us to friends and family, and help rebuild community.”

The arts and culture sector in Iowa typically contributes $4.2 billion annually to the state’s economy and employs more than 43,000 creative workers across more than 5,000 businesses. Closures and event cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 caused job losses.

“A record number of people” engaged in virtual programs, online classes and outdoor performances during the pandemic, and in-person attendance at Iowa arts and cultural venues, festivals and concerts returned in the summer of 2021, the release said.

“The return of arts and cultural events, festivals and daily museum visits is lifting our spirits and the livelihoods of our creative workforce, along with the broader tourism, leisure and hospitality industry that depends on our arts and cultural attractions,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in the release.

U.S. Small Business Administration Iowa District Office Lead Lender Relations Specialist/Public Information Officer Thomas Lentell told The Center Square in an email Friday that, as of Sept. 20, Iowa venues have received 27 Shuttered Venue Operators Grants, for $56,167,998.

Live venue operators, theatrical producers, live performing arts organizations operators, museums operators, motion picture theater operators and talent representatives were among those eligible to apply for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.

“With regard to what these numbers mean, initially it means helping those specific entities that got an SVOG to weather the impact of COVID 19 on their venue. In other words, helping them stay in business,” he said. “But it goes beyond that. These entertainment venues, which exist in every state of the nation, anchor our neighborhoods and play an important role in our economy — fueling travel, tourism, and local restaurants, hotels, and retail establishments. So, the program isn’t just about helping these venue weather the impact of COVID 19, it’s about helping Iowa’s overall economy.”

The Iowa State Fair Authority ($8.2 million), Des Moines Performing Arts ($5.7 million), and R L Fridley Theatres INC ($4.8 million) received the largest amounts of grant funding, SBA reported.

More information about the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs grants program is available at

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