2023 Governor’s Arts Awards 


Emerging Arts Leader Award 

A. Alanda Gregory, Dubuque 
A. Alanda Gregory has helped elevate the arts and culture in Dubuque and ensure that diverse voices are heard and represented throughout the community. In 2022, Gregory was one of 53 arts leaders chosen for a national fellowship program.  

Amber Danielson, Marshalltown 
Amber Danielson has transformed the work and impact of the Marshall County Arts & Culture Alliance. In addition to managing major public art installations and securing grants for creative community projects, Danielson played a key role in Marshalltown’s recovery from natural disasters by launching a citywide mural arts program and the community’s first Arts & Culture Master Plan.  

Arts Service Award 

Public Space One, Iowa City 
Public Space One emerged on Iowa City’s arts scene more than 20 years ago as an incubator for local creative talent. Since then it has become an essential part of the community’s social and cultural fabric, as the home to several community arts organizations. 

Mainframe Studios, Des Moines 
Mainframe Studios has elevated Greater Des Moines and Iowa as a hub for artists and creatives. Following a campaign that concluded in 2022, Mainframe is now home to numerous non-profit arts organizations and 180 studios, providing affordable workspace for artists and creatives across all disciplines and serving as a national model. 

Arts Learning Award 

Leon Kuehner, Hampton 
Leon Kuehner has served the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education for 25 years, following decades of service as a high school band director in Hampton and president of the Iowa Bandmasters Association. As a tireless advocate for the arts and arts education, Leon launched a successful mentoring program and helped envision the Iowa Fine Arts Standards.  

Eastern Iowa Arts Academy, Cedar Rapids 
The Eastern Iowa Arts Academy was founded in 2007 in response to a need for quality, after-school arts programming in Greater Cedar Rapids. Today, the organization serves students in grades K-12 through year-round visual, performing and literary arts programs that build confidence, improve performance abilities, and enhance an appreciation of the arts. 

Arts Champion Award 

Brucemore, Cedar Rapids 
Brucemore has championed the arts and history in Cedar Rapids since 1981. Brucemore’s mission became even more essential after a severe derecho devastated its historic campus in 2020. Despite sustaining losses of more than $3 million and 450 trees, Brucemore remained committed to supporting the arts and resumed performances only two weeks after the storm, providing leadership during an unprecedented time. 

Robin Anderson, Mason City 
Robin Anderson has been a constant presence in the renaissance of downtown Mason City. From her efforts to preserve the Historic Park Inn–the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in the world; to helping save the historic Egloff House; and to spearheading the creation of murals and annual sculpture walk, Mason City’s reputation as a cultural hotspot has flourished under Robin’s 22-year tenure as director of the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, which was recognized as National Chamber of the Year in 2022. 

Arts Legacy Award 

Jeff Fleming, Des Moines 
Jeff Fleming has shaped the Des Moines Art Center and Greater Des Moines over 25 years, most notably through a visionary public-private partnership that created the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in 2009. Under Fleming’s leadership, the Des Moines Art Center has opened its doors to diverse communities; presented thought-provoking exhibitions; and upgraded its facilities.   

Penny Furgerson and Gateway Dance Theatre, Des Moines 
Penny Furgerson has been a trailblazer in the field of multicultural arts education and performance for five decades.  Following her upbringing in Bombay, India and early training in classical Indian dance, Furgerson co-founded Gateway Dance Theatre in Des Moines in 1972.  Gateway Dance Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022 and legacy of artistic creativity, accessibility, and a commitment to the community. 


2020 Recipients

Governor's Arts Legacy Award: Mary Ellen Kimball of Osceola

Mary Ellen Kimball of Osceola is a legend in the Iowa arts community through her decades of work and service to arts and culture across the state. She currently serves as chair of the Iowa Cultural Trust, where she has helped develop a giving model that supports more organizations with limited funds. She has served on the Iowa Arts Council Board of Trustees and is a community leader who hosts artists, leads fundraisers and ensures the arts remain vibrant in Iowa. Kimball is a gifted artist herself and has personally supported a long list of cultural and arts organizations, including Iowa Stage Theatre, Des Moines Arts Center, Des Moines Metro Opera and many more.

Governor's Arts Award – Nonprofit Award: Northeast Iowa RC&D

In 2015, Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development, in partnership with the Byways of Iowa Foundation, launched the Byways of Iowa Public Art Initiative. Funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts "Our Town" program, the Northeast Iowa RC&D hired Iowa-based artists to develop, fabricate and install unique public art pieces in 15 Iowa communities. The project was completed in 2019 with more than $250,000 raised through the support of more than 100 private, local, state and federal contributors. Together, the 16 installations create a body of art that epitomizes the culture and character of communities along Iowa's scenic byways. Learn more at bywaysofiowa.org/art.

Governor's Arts Award – Community Award: City of Malvern

Over the last few years, Malvern has evolved into a rural arts and cultural destination in southwest Iowa where tourists can experience Zack Jones' ever-evolving Project Art Church; creative businesses, including an art gallery and paintings and pottery studio; and a new mural and outdoor art. The community also attracts tourists who gather on Saturday nights for live music at the Malvern Concert Series and Market. According to the Malvern Area Betterment Association, "with three fun places to eat, including art in each location, visitors feel connected to Malvern and its people."

2018 Recipients

Governor's Arts Legacy Award: Karen Hoyt of Marion

When Karen Hoyt retired from teaching in 2007, she thought she'd spend more time in her studio working on her art. "I'm a working artist, but that's such a solitary experience," she said. "I discovered I'm more of a people person and I need to interact with friends to be happy." So she started volunteering on a lengthy list of cultural arts and creative placemaking projects, including the annual Marion Arts Festival, the Art in the Depot student project and Marion's World Lunch Event. She also secured a $350,000 grant from ArtPlace America – the only one received in Iowa – to support the Uptown Artway public art project. She received the Governor's Arts Legacy Award for her role in those projects and many others in Marion. "I'm pretty blown away," she said. "I think it's great (because) this award demonstrates the arts are valued in Iowa and it says ordinary people like me can make a difference."

Governor's Arts Award – Nonprofit Award: Community Support Advocates (Des Moines)

For 14 years, Community Support Advocates has organized an annual art show called "Momentum" to showcase artists with disabilities, brain injuries and mental health issues. The program exposes them to the arts, inspires non-traditional artists and enhances the skills of more advanced artists. The group expanded its mission in 2016 to connect under-served populations to art and, in 2017, received several grants to hire a coordinator, secure an arts studio and partner with local artists. "We started this (program) thinking 'Where could they have a safe space to create art and be surrounded by it?' and 'How do we build hope and resiliency through the arts?'" said Christina Smith, CEO and president of Community Support Advocates. "But this is more than art therapy. We believe art can be transformative." The group's next goals focus on helping artists appeal to a wider audience, generate income and foster greater understanding of mental health and disability issues.

Governor's Arts Award – Nonprofit Award: FACE of Mahaska County (Oskaloosa)

Moving into a new location at the Oskaloosa Art Center has given FACE a new lease on life with a gallery, shop, studio space, classrooms and a performance space that helps them connect artists with audiences. "I didn't have a lot of access to art until I moved away to college," said artist and teacher Matt Kargol, who also serves as FACE vice president and gallery coordinator. "When I returned, I wanted my students to be able to see art closer to home even if they're not coming into the Art Center." FACE is meeting that challenge by developing a sculpture tour around town and nearby University Park, a pottery studio and classes for all levels. The group also has created programs such as open-mic nights, poetry readings, painting and knitting classes, art camps and ethnic dinners. FACE is currently working on the opening of a sculpture annex, which will house 3-D art and murals.

Governor's Arts Award – Community Award: Jefferson Matters: Main Street Tower View Team

Rising 168-feet into the air, the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower in Jefferson has become the community's focal point for new public art and creative placemaking projects. The tower's observation deck offers breathtaking views "and that was the driving point for developing new ideas: 'What can you see from the tower?'" said Peg Raney, executive director of the Jefferson Matters: Main Street program. It turns out there is plenty to see. A team of volunteers and artists installed public sculptures, organized the city's fourth public piano installation and developed Jefferson's first alley art in "Sally's Alley," which was featured on National Public Radio. The team also installed art on the rooftops of three downtown buildings. "We appreciate that these projects in rural communities are being recognized," Raney said. "(It) empowers small communities who view art as economic development to move forward in their progress of drawing people to their community."

2016 Recipients

Excellence and Innovation in the Arts Award: David Dahlquist

David Dahlquist leads Iowa and much of the nation in building stronger communities through art as an artist and creative director for RDG Planning and Design. With more than 80 public art projects nationwide, he has helped raise awareness about art in public life by layering his designs with social, economic and environmental meaning. One of his most iconic examples is the spiraling framework he designed for the High Trestle Trail Bridge between Madrid and Woodward, which links a network of trails and draws more than 20,000 visitors every month. It’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named by the BBC as one of the top eight footbridges in the world. David’s projects have earned national recognition for telling the story of Iowa, from our roots in agriculture and railroads to our future in wind energy --and he often uses new techniques to make that happen. He was an early adopter of digital glazing, for example, which involves firing computer images onto clay and glass, and his research helped other artists across the country.

Collaboration and Partnership in the Arts Award: Fort Dodge Community Foundation & United Way

The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way recognize how the arts play a key role in economic development by attracting new people to the community and encouraging current residents to stick around. The Community Foundation and United Way also understand how the arts boost educational programs by helping students sharpen their critical thinking, improve their problem-solving skills and grow into creative, productive and collaborative adults.

Impact and Accessibility in the Arts Award: ArtHaus

ArtHaus has initiated a slew of innovative programs over the past two years, including a lecture series involving professors from Luther College, a soundsculpture park designed by the local composer Brooke Joyce and a local nonprofit called Spectrum Network, which serves folks with disabilities, an Earth Day celebration and a poetry slam with AmeriCorps volunteers. ArtHaus hosts free and low-cost events such as art fairs, gallery openings, concerts, date nights, family workshops, a youth apprenticeship program, and a variety of outreach activities that mobilize people to use the power of the arts for positive change.

Arts Learning Leadership Award: Turnaround Arts

Turnaround Arts: Des Moines has used the arts to improve five schools on the city’s north side. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and a host of private and corporate donors, the program uses the arts to help turn around lower-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap and develop a stronger sense of community. The program’s leaders have brought in well-known local and national artists, including the Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, to show kids and teachers alike new ways to integrate the arts into traditional subjects such as reading, science and math. With their hard work and creative energy, the Turnaround program is turning thousands of students toward a brighter future and a wider horizon.

2014 Recipients

Excellence and Innovation in the Arts Award: make/break

The Des Moines arts startup helps artists sell their work through “buy local” events like Market Day, a semiannual vintage craft and arts fair. The group also borrowed the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, model to sell shares of artwork distributed at pickup events throughout the year.

Collaboration and Partnership in the Arts Award: John Busbee

The Des Moines actor, filmmaker, theater critic and radio host of “The Culture Buzz” on KFMG (99.1 FM) has worked with Iowa artists for more than 30 years. He has collaborated on more than 75 musical and theatrical productions, archived interviews with more than 1,200 of his radio guests and pitched in on dozens of notable Iowa events and institutions, including the Ingersoll Dinner Theatre, the Iowa State Fair, the Wild Rose Film Festival, and I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa.

Impact and Accessibility in the Arts Award: Afterschool Arts Program

An outgrowth of a program at St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Des Moines, ASAP offers hands-on programs in arts, music, theater and writing for local elementary students. The program fills in the gaps for students who don’t have access to many in-school arts programs or can’t afford to participate in their schools’ extracurricular programs. Since 2009, ASAP has also offered summer arts camps, funded in part from events like the three course tasting dinner set for Monday night at the Des Moines Social Club.

Public Art Leadership Award: Lynette Pohlman

Lynette Pohlman, for public art leadership. Since 1980, the director of Iowa State University Museums has worked to catalog, conserve, interpret and commission artwork on every corner of the Ames campus. She has personally curated more than 600 exhibitions and has lent her expertise to public art projects and museums statewide.