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Iowa Arts Summit Featured Presenters

Iowa Arts Summit Featured Presenters

The biennial Iowa Arts Summit is the state’s leading professional development and networking event for Iowa’s arts and creative community. Learn about the 2022 Iowa Arts Summit speakers and how they are transforming their organizations and communities. 

Torrie Allen
President and CEO, Arts Midwest

Torrie Allen has more than 30 years of wide-ranging experience in national, regional, and local arts leadership including executive and artistic management, fundraising, marketing, policy, adjudication, grantmaking, and international performance. He has appeared as keynote speaker for international, national and regional conferences, and a guest lecturer at University of Pennsylvania, Yale, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and other schools. He has served as a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wallace Foundation. Currenlty, he serves on the board of National Arts Strategies, VocalEssence, NIVA Foundation, AIR Institute, The Great Northern, and Americans for the Arts.

In 2019, he became the new president and CEO of Arts Midwest. From 2016 to 2019, he presided over all philanthropic activity at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He was chief officer of development and marketing at Alaska Public Media from 2012 to 2016 and executive and artistic director of Anchorage Opera from 2006 to 2012. Prior to joining Anchorage Opera, he was the director of the National Patrons Council at Americans for the Arts.

Michele Anderson
Rural Director, Springboard for the Arts

Michele Anderson is the rural program director for Springboard for the Arts. She has managed Springboard’s office in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, which has become a hub of thought and action about arts-based rural community development. She earned a master's degree in cultural sustainability from Goucher College, where she received the inaugural Rory Turner Prize in Cultural Sustainability in 2014 for her creative nonfiction essay “Imaginative Fields: A Companion to Action,” about how Springboard used the arts to foster community interaction with a former state hospital in Fergus Falls.

Robin Anderson
President and CEO, Mason City Chamber of Commerce and Arts Advocate

Robin Anderson is a community leader with a passion for public art and architecture. She is the founder of River City Sculptures on Parade—Mason City’s 1.7 mile sculpture walk featuring 80 permanent or rotating works by artists from across the country. As part of the Chamber’s placemaking efforts, she started the “Building Our Brand” program to beautify the backs of Downtown buildings with murals featuring geometric designs in the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright. The companion “It’s A Wrap” program uses vehicle wraps to cover utility boxes. She led a team of volunteers to restore and repurpose The Historic Egloff House as short-term furnished housing for college and professional school students. Robin also serves on the Iowa Arts Council.

Marquas Ashworth
Developer of Center @ Sixth, Entrepreneur, and Artist

Marquas “MarKaus” Ashworth is a Des Moines entrepreneur who’s combined his musical talent with rye whiskey production to form Ziyad, a whiskey distillery. While traveling across Iowa, MarKaus was inspired by the connections of the counterculture hip-hop scene and southern Iowa bootleggers who crafted the perfect rye whiskey recipe a century ago. The whiskey is sold on grocery shelves in nine states (including Des Moines-area Hy-Vee stores) and can be purchased online to ship nationwide. On each bottle of his Burn the Boats rye whiskey, buyers can scan a QR code and listen to his rap song by the same name. MarKaus, voted Iowa Artist of the Year 2017, is also the Producer and Founder of Media Fresh Records, where he produces not only his projects, but those of other musicians.

Sarah Blais
Director of Development, NewBo City Market

Sarah Blais is the Director of Development at NewBo City Market. She graduated from Grinnell College with a degree in Art History and went on to Georgetown University to earn her Masters in Contemporary Art History. She studied Arts Business at the Sotheby's Institute in London and started her career at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library as an Educator. She spent four years energizing their arts education and programming before moving on to NewBo City Market where she works to support their mission of fostering regional economic development by uplifting entrepreneurs and artists.

Carey Bostian
Artistic Director, Red Cedar Chamber Music

Cellist Carey Bostian is the Artistic Director of Red Cedar Chamber Music. As an educator and performer, he sees himself as a storyteller, and presents music - new and old - in an innovative cultural and historical context whenever possible. Having premiered and commissioned hundreds of new works, he is committed to promoting the music of living composers. Carey received a BM from The Ohio State University in 1993 and continued his studies at the University of Iowa, earning a DMA in cello performance w/Charles Wendt, and an MFA in orchestral conducting as the last student of James Dixon. For two decades, Carey was Principal Cellist of Orchestra Iowa, leaving the position in 2015 to become Artistic Director of RCCM. He has been conductor of the Iowa City Community String Orchestra since 1998, and teaches cello privately. He also serves on the conducting faculty at the Preucil School of Music.

Pam Breaux
President and CEO, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Pam Breaux is the president and CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, where she works to advance NASAA's policy and programmatic mission to strengthen America's state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Before working with state governments, Pam was the executive director of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana and managed southwest Louisiana’s Decentralized Arts Funding Program.

Denise Brown
Executive Director, Leeway Foundation

Denise M. Brown (she/her) is a cultural organizer and strategist, coach, and facilitator who is passionate about using her skills and energies on creating, supporting and illuminating work at the intersections of art, culture and social justice. She is the executive director of the Leeway Foundation, an organization whose mission it is to support women and trans* artists and cultural producers creating art for social change. For over 25+ years, Denise has consulted with cultural and social justice organizations, individual donors and foundations on program development and grantmaking strategies regionally and nationally. She currently serves on the boards of the Henrietta Wurts Memorial Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation and Scribe Video Center, a Philadelphia-based media arts organization.

*Leeway is a trans-affirming organization committed to gender self-determination, and we use the term “trans” in its most inclusive sense, as an umbrella term encompassing transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, Two-Spirit people, and anyone whose gender identity or gender expression is nonconforming and/or different from their gender assigned at birth.

Bruce Corrie
Economist, Concordia University

Dr. Bruce Corrie is an economist at Concordia University in Saint Paul Minnesota. He has pioneered with others a concept called Cultural Destinations - where the cultural assets of the ALANA (African Latino Asian and Native American) communities are integrated into economic development and wealth building strategies, especially in diverse, low income communities and reflected in concepts such as Little Africa and Little Mekong. This work can be found at He also served as the Director for Planning and Economic Development for the City of Saint Paul where he implemented this vision around cultural destinations and economic inclusion.

Amber Danielson
Executive Director, Marshall County Arts & Culture Alliance and Chair, Iowa Arts Council Board of Directors

Amber is a Marshalltown native and has served as the Executive Director of the Marshall County Arts & Culture Alliance since 2016. She is a Marshalltown Community College and University of Northern Iowa graduate where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business.​ Currently, Amber serves as the Chair of the Iowa Arts Council board, and is a board member of the 13th Street District and Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center.

She and her husband, Cole, have a four-year-old son, Finnley, who keeps them active and mostly outdoors. She is passionate about helping make Marshalltown and the state of Iowa a place to live, work, learn and play through the arts and creative community development.

Teva Dawson
Founder/Owner, Group Creative Services

Teva Dawson began her career path of invention by designing her own major in Environmental Education from Drake University which led to the creation of Des Moines’s first Community Garden Program. She ended her 15 years with Des Moines Parks and Recreation in the management team having expanded the department into new ways to serve its citizens. She then spearheaded Greater Des Moines’ first Water Trails and Greenways Plan as a Senior Planner with Des Moines Metropolitan Planning Organization. Teva founded Group Creative Services, a public art consultancy, in 2017 to broaden the role of the arts and artists to evolve more innovative and meaningful civic life in our communities.

Daphne Dickens
Director of Guest Engagement, Des Moines Arts Festival

Daphne Dickens, CFEE (Certified Festival & Event Executive), is the Director of Guest Engagement for the award winning Des Moines Arts Festival®, a three-day festival celebrating arts and culture in the streets of Downtown Des Moines. Over the past decade she has spent time working in radio promotions as well as managing multiple fundraising events, corporate giving, and donor development for a national health organization. In her role at the Des Moines Arts Festival, she assists in creating and managing programming and production for the Festival as well as a variety of other programs the organization hosts throughout the year, including “A Seat at the Table”, artist education programming, and new event series launching this fall!

Sally Dix
Executive Director, Bravo Greater Des Moines

Sally Dix is the Executive Director for Bravo Greater Des Moines, a nonprofit organization that leverages community resources to maximize the impact of arts, culture and heritage to advance regional priorities. A primary function of Bravo is to strategically invest in regional cultural organizations to elevate and enrich a vibrant Greater Des Moines. In addition, Bravo leads community efforts to ensure that arts and culture are integral to advancing regional priorities.

Dix has an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins, both in Environmental Science and Policy. She also earned her MBA from the University of Iowa.

John Engelbrecht
Executive Director, Public Space One

John Engelbrecht is an artist, arts organizer, educator, and Executive Director of Public Space One (PS1). Since joining PS1 in 2009, he has steadily built the beloved regional arts institution operating locally as Iowa City’s arts hub through securing national recognition (in grants, awards, and accolades in the contemporary arts field), thanks to its innovative programming (residencies, performances, exhibitions, and public projects) and wide-ranging artist network. Under his tenure, the organization has grown from its DIY/DIT roots to owning, occupying, and programming three historic buildings in downtown Iowa City and operating major projects including the Iowa City Press Co-op, the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, and the Media Arts Co-op.

Chaveevah Ferguson

The artworks “Among Friends” and “I Love Music” by Chaveevah Ferguson of Waterloo can be seen throughout the 2022 Iowa Arts Summit printed and digital materials.

Ferguson is a self-taught artist, who recently created a mural for the Black Stories Collective permanent exhibit at the Grout Museum in Waterloo, as well as a mural for the city’s Jesse Cosby Neighborhood Center.

Additionally, her children’s book illustrations were part of an exhibit of Iowa illustrators at the Phelps Youth Pavilion at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. She illustrated “Good Morning, Lovey!” and “Travis, It’s NOT Your Birthday!” by author Joshalyn M. Hickey Johnson; “Henry the Farsighted Heron” by Joyce Barbatti; “That‘s What Gentlemen Do” by Jeffrey Ferguson; “Rise” by Abraham L. Funchess Jr.; and several other books for children. Ferguson is also owner and founder of BaHar Publishing, which has published about 70 books including works of fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature, and poetry.

Along with her friend Joshalyn “Rocki” Johnson, Ferguson co-hosts a popular community-interest show on Facebook and local television, “Ms. Rocki & Chaveevah LIVE!” which was recently featured on Iowa PBS.

Ferguson’s art is deeply influenced by African and African American culture, and it reflects her years as a dancer with the nationally acclaimed Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago. The joy and movement of dance are recurring themes in her work, and several of her pieces pay homage to the institutions and individuals that first nurtured her cultural awareness.

For more information about Chaveevah’s work, please visit the artist’s website.

Rachel Gulick
Executive Director, Girls Rock! Des Moines

“When young people are in charge of creating collaborative spaces and can sound their path through the arts, real systemic change and courageous confidence takes root. Although Women have often been left in the margins of music history, our contributions are anything but marginal.”

Rachel Gulick is a life-long Des Moinian, musician, Drake University alumna double major in Sociology and Anthropology with a Concentration in Women’s Studies, and owner of House Of Glass & REG Investments. They were a founding volunteer with Girls Rock! Des Moines (GRDSM) in 2013, and in August of 2020, became the Executive Director. Their enthusiasm for GRDSM stems from experiences as a young musician, and a desire to create safe, supportive spaces for youth to learn & express themselves through arts education, collaboration, and performance. Their passions include; music & music education, intersectional feminism, social justice & liberation work throughout our communities, support & advocacy for LGBTQQIA youth, and the continual process of empowerment. 

Beau Kenyon
Composer and Creative Entrepreneur

Beau Kenyon earned music composition degrees from Berklee College of Music (B.M. 2004) and Tufts University (M.A. 2007) and has contributed to research in the fields of music cognition (pub. Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Executive Functioning in Musicians and Non-Musicians. PLoS ONE. 2014), curiosity-based education, and community engagement strategies (pub. Listening to the City: Community Research and Action through Sound and Story. MIT Press. 2018). He first aligned these four disciplines as Composer-in-Residence for the Boston Public Library (2017), where he created a 40-minute immersive performance installation and series of multigenerational workshops.

His recent piece, Of Gravity and Light (2022) is a 55-minute contemporary ballet that explores the science of the solar system through music, contemporary ballet (Tom Mattingly), and video projection (Yu-Wen Wu). Kenyon is on faculty at Northeastern University– College of Arts, Media + Design, where he teaches graduate coursework in arts administration and cultural entrepreneurship.

Miera Kim
Executive Director, Red Cedar Chamber Music

Miera Kim is the Executive Director of Red Cedar Chamber Music and violinist in its core ensemble. An Iowa native, she began her violin studies with Doris Preucil at the Preucil School of Music. Miera was a longtime titled player in both Orchestra Iowa and the Quad Cities Symphony and is in high demand as a teacher, clinician, and chamber musician across the region. She has also served as a grant panelist for the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Miera studied with Allen Ohmes at the University of Iowa and Jascha Brodsky at the Curtis Institute of Music. She plays a 1735 Nicolò Gagliano violin.

Adam Knight
Producing Artistic Director, Riverside Theatre 

Adam Knight is Producing Artistic Director at Riverside Theatre, a professional resident theatre in Iowa City, now heading into its 42nd season. Adam arrived in 2018 and helped lead Riverside’s move from its long-time home in the Northside neighborhood to a new downtown location in the heart of the Ped Mall. This move and the growth needed to achieve it was made possible by the “Next Stage” campaign, Riverside’s first capital campaign in more than 20 years. Prior to moving to Iowa City, Adam was founder and co-Artistic Director of Slant Theatre Project in New York City, an Off Off-Broadway company that produced more than two dozen world premieres, working with a large roster of emerging artists.

Kelly Lao
Executive Director, German American Heritage Center and Museum

Kelly Lao (she/her) is a museum and nonprofit professional who excels in advancing development strategies through community outreach and relationship building. She is the Executive Director of the German American Heritage Center and Museum in Davenport, Iowa where she has supported their mission for over 10 years. She received her Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Western Illinois University and her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Iowa. Ms. Lao has a Certificate of Non-Profit Leadership from St. Ambrose University and currently serves on the board of the Iowa Cultural Coalition, the Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at Augustana College, the Downtown Davenport Partnership Public Art Commission, and the Advisory Board for the Creative Arts Academy of Davenport Community Schools. She lives in Rock Island, Illinois with her husband and three children.

Amber Lynch
Executive Director, Invest DSM

Amber Lynch, AICP is the Executive Director for Invest DSM, a non-profit Neighborhood Revitalization organization created by the City of Des Moines and Polk County, Iowa in 2019. Prior to Invest DSM, Amber served as a City Planner with the City of Des Moines for over 10 years. During her time with the City, Amber’s primary role was to work with neighborhoods to develop revitalization plans and facilitate other neighborhood-level projects. Amber has served as a board member for the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). She also serves on the Steering Committee for the national Middle Neighborhoods advocacy initiative.

Debra Marquart
Iowa Poet Laureate and Distinguished Professor of English, Iowa State University

Debra Marquart is the Poet Laureate of Iowa and the author of seven books of prose and poetry, including The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere. A Distinguished Professor at Iowa State University, Marquart has received over 50 grants and awards including an NEA Fellowship, a PEN USA Award, an Arcus Center for Social Justice Fellowship, and Elle Magazine’s Elle Lettres Award. Her work has been featured on NPR and the BBC. A singer and songwriter, Marquart is a collaborating member of The Bone People, a jazz-poetry, rhythm and blues project, which has released two CDs. Marquart’s most recent book, Gratitude with Dogs Under Stars: New & Collected Poems, is forthcoming in October 2022. 

Nancy Mayfield
Board Member, Maquoketa Art Experience

Nancy Mayfield is a board member of the Maquoketa Art Experience, which she joined in 2014 after she moved to Eastern Iowa. A native of Hammond, Indiana, she has also lived in Chicago; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Dixon, Illinois. She was actively involved in the arts communities in those communities. A journalist for almost four decades, she and her husband, Trevis, own Sycamore Media, which publishes newspapers in Bellevue, DeWitt, Keosauqua, Maquoketa, and Wapello, as well as magazines and other specialty publications. She is a firm believer that arts and culture are a cornerstone of building community, and she feels a commitment to contribute to organizations that further that mission for people of all ages and backgrounds. Mayfield is an avid reader, kayaker and hiker. She loves to attend theatre productions, whether they are in small, community settings or big cities.

Kevin L. Maynard
Executive Director, Quad City Arts

Kevin L. Maynard is the Executive Director of Quad City Arts. A passionate advocate for the arts with more than 10 years’ experience in arts management and philanthropy, he believes the arts are essential to a healthy community--driving tourism, the economy, and improving our quality of life. Prior to joining Quad City Arts, Maynard served as Executive Director of The Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, Illinois where he led a successful community campaign to renovate the 100-year-old theatre. Maynard holds a Bachelor of Accountancy and a Master of Business Administration from Western Illinois University. Maynard also serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Presenters Network.

Deb McGinn
Tower View team Chair, Jefferson Matters: A Main Street & Chamber Community

Deb McGinn is the creator and chair of Tower View, the arts advocacy team of Jefferson Matters: Main Street. Deb serves on the Main Street Board of Directors and the Why Not Us Board of Directors. Under Deb’s leadership, the Tower View Team has been awarded numerous awards, including the 2014 Main Street Iowa Image Award, 2016 National Public Radio “Here & Now” recognized for creative placemaking, Sally’s Alley, 2018 Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence, 2019 Jefferson Main Street Volunteer of the Year, 2022 Main Street Iowa Creative Placemaking Award Arch Alley, 2022 Jefferson Main Street TVT Volunteers of the Year.

Liz McNea
Executive Director, Spencer Community Theatre

Liz McNea is a Charleston, SC born performer, director, and choreographer who received her BA in Theatre Performance and Minor in Dance from College of Charleston. With 28 years of theatre experience, she relocated with her family to the Midwest in 2016. After serving on the Board of Directors and volunteering at Spencer Community Theatre (SCT) for three years, she joined the staff as Executive Artistic Director in 2019 and moved into the Executive Director role in late 2021. She is passionate about the role of education in performance communities and its potential to empower the storytelling of new and diverse narratives, as well as existing narratives that have long been silent. Using the tenet of theatre for all, Spencer Community Theatre endeavors to build safe space for performers, patrons, and artists of all proficiencies and perspectives.

Myron McReynolds
Director of Education, Orchestra Iowa

Myron McReynolds holds the Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from Western Illinois University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in band conducting from The University of Iowa and is presently the Director of Education for Orchestra Iowa, overseeing the education and educational outreach activities for the organization. For the prior fifteen years, he was head of the highly successful and comprehensive band program at City High School (Iowa City), where he conducted the wind ensemble and concert bands, and taught AP Music Theory. Myron came to Iowa City following tenures as Director of Bands at St. Xavier University (Chicago) and Albion College. There he served as chair of the music department, as well as conductor/director of concert bands, marching band, pep band, jazz band and the Albion College Orchestra. Dr. McReynolds has studied conducting with Myron Welch, Dennis Johnson and James Dixon. He has served as guest conductor and clinician with bands throughout the midwest, was the co-founder/director of the Great River Bend Community Band and musical director and conductor of the Deerfield (IL) Community Band.

Dr. McReynolds has served as a panelist for the African American Museum of Iowa discussion of the 1619 Project, provided STEAM activities for Johnson STEAM Academy in Cedar Rapids and was moderator for the Cedar Rapids Opera’s 2021 Juneteenth panel discussion featuring Simon Estes. Myron has also served as stie evaluator for the North Central School Association and pre-concert lecturer for the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2015, Dr. McReynolds was named by the national publication School Band and Orchestra Magazine as one of its "50 Directors Who Make A Difference". Myron has presented two clinics at the Iowa Bandmasters Association conference, written music curriculum for the Chicago Public Schools and designed a course that studies the linkage between the Harlem and Chicago Renaissance with present-day Chicago that he taught at the Chicago Police Academy. His doctoral essay, The Band Works of William Grant Still: A Conductor’s Guide, remains the only work to look at the entirety of the wind band output of this American music master.

B. Robert Moore
Multidisciplinary Contemporary Artist

“As a recovering alcoholic and addict, art is my therapy and I find fulfillment in producing the work as a healthy alternative to addiction and mental health disorders (a/k/a super powers). As long as I am representing the underrepresented narrative and narrative that exposes the most vulnerable forms of authenticity and growth, then I find this as a form of currency to me.”

Robert, a multidisciplinary contemporary artist, started painting to counter drug addiction and alcoholism among mental and emotional health outlets. To Robert, he is constantly in pursuit of happiness, which in his current state is defined by fulfillment + purpose. He finds purpose in connecting narrative and opening doors for connection, relation, healing, discussion. From up-cycled sculpture to abstract portrait and urban neo-expressionism, Robert has defined his genre or style as "narrative". He is purposeful with every word, brushstroke and connection to the work with contention if intentionally or accidental occurrences influenced the work. Like many human and human experiences, the exterior never truly tells how the person was composed within the interior or influences/experiences that impacted them and so human nature typically has a subjective stance. Robert attempts to strip away those subjective "soft" assumptions of narrative instead calling it out directly. That is the goal in his work, to conflict and provoke thought of narrative of African and African American diaspora as well as social and civil experiences of underrepresented people + narrative.

Robert’s work can be found internationally from green collections to established, recognized private collections. Robert continues to develop the mastery of his craft without restriction of rules or style, or brand. He is constantly evolving, Roberts work can be found in public and private installations internationally.

Paula Neuhaus
Chair, Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission, City of Dubuque

Paula Neuhaus (she/her) is the Grant Writer/Grants Manager for The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IA. As grant writer and resource development specialist with 13+ years of nonprofit visual arts administration, program development, project management, fundraising, and arts advocacy experience, Paula has found her niche in grant writing on local, state, and federal levels. As a creative, Paula is a poet, one-act playwright, and is exploring mixed media collage and papermaking. She lives to argue the tenants of the Oxford Comma and serves as Chair of the City of Dubuque Arts & Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission and Chair of the Dubuque Winter Farmers Market. A locavore, spelling bee kid, foodie, and preservation nerd, Paula holds degrees from Loras College (Dubuque, IA) and the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA). She definitely wants to play Scrabble with YOU!

Zoie Papouchis
Service & Operations Director, mason City Chamber of Commerce and Professional Artist

Zoie is a graduate of North Iowa Area Community College and works as an independent artist in addition to her duties at the Chamber. She takes private commissions and teaches art workshops for all ages. Zoie is an accomplished muralist who most recently designed a “paint-by-number” mural for the Chamber’s Diversity-Equity-Inclusion initiative known as Building CommUNITY. The mural, which was completed by more than 100 community volunteers at the north entrance to Mason City’s Downtown, proclaims the community as a welcoming place to ALL kinds of people

Jenni Petersen-Brant
Arts & Cultural Affairs Coordinator, City of Dubuque

By day, Jenni (she/her/hers) is the Arts & Cultural Affairs Coordinator for the City of Dubuque. By night and on the weekends, she creates and sells one-of-a-kind handmade functional pottery as Burro Branch Studios. In her city government role, Jenni serves as the ‘arts whisperer’, infusing arts-centered thinking into City planning and programs while fostering connection, collaboration, and resilience amongst Dubuque’s arts and culture sector to maximize their impact as a partner in the City’s ’Masterpiece on the Mississippi’ vision. She administers grant programs, manages the City’s Art on the River public art program, and oversees implementation of Dubuque’s Arts & Culture Master Plan. In 2021, she helped secure the only NEA ARPA Local Arts Agency Subgranting program award granted to an Iowa community, with Dubuque receiving one of the top awards of $500,000 to support operations of local arts and culture nonprofits and community-forward, career-advancing projects by local creatives.

Jessica Pfohl Paisley

Jessica Pfohl Paisley is the founder of AMIDST, a print + digital magazine and dedicated online community for Midwest creatives. Jessica started AMIDST with a passion for storytelling, creating a space for connection, and expanding the definition of the Midwest experience. With a background in fashion styling, costume design for independent films, and writing for area publications, Jessica has worked with many amazingly talented creatives across the Midwest in a variety of industries, from musicians, models, filmmakers, artists, and many others. Making these connections and wanting a platform to share those stories is what inspired her to launch AMIDST.

Lauren Terrell
Studio Osky

Lauren Terrell is the founder of Studio Osky in Oskaloosa, IA. An expat of Chandler, AZ, Lauren moved to Oskaloosa in 2008 to attend William Penn University. After graduating and becoming charmed by the locals and picturesque downtown, Lauren continues to reside in Oskaloosa, starting her own business in the art industry with Studio Osky. Lauren has been renovating the old Mercy Hospital and Clinic into an artist collective of affordable private studios spaces, gallery, and cafe. Lauren seeks to build a place for artists and makers of all mediums to come create and share their work with the local community. Studio Osky works with other local artist and creative groups in order to take this small Iowa town into its own “art-skaloosa” renaissance.

Niq Thomas
Multidisciplinary Artist

Niq Thomas is a multidisciplinary artist raised in Independence, IA, and currently residing in Venice, CA. His work includes abstract painting, collage, assemblage sculptures, and video. In May of 2021, Niq organized the Iowa Pop Art Market in Cedar Rapids, a pop-up that featured 30 artists and vendors exclusively from Iowa. The success of that event motivated him to continue curating the “Iowa Pop Art” brand on social media, using it to highlight artists and art events throughout the state. Iowa Pop Art held a second event in September 2021 and a third, the Iowa Pop Art Festival, in May of this year, which featured 90 Iowa artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs.

Nina Ozlu Tunceli
Executive Director, Americans for the Arts Action Fund and Chief Council of Goverment and Public Affairs, Americans for the Arts

Nina Ozlu Tunceli serves as chief counsel of government and public affairs at Americans for the Arts and executive director for the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. She mobilizes the political and legislative efforts of more than 420,000 citizen activists in advancing arts policy issues among elected officials and those seeking public office. She produces several annual events, including National Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill; the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center; and the National Public Leadership in the Arts Awards, presented in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Katie Roche
Development Director, The Englert Theatre

Katie Roche (she/her) has served as the Development Director for The Englert Theatre since 2011, also serving as the Development Director for Strengthen Grow Evolve, a joint capital with FilmScene "Building the Greatest Small City for the Arts" that culminated in 2021. Anchored by a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Katie is currently leading a countywide arts access study called the Arts Access Initiative, which will work to gain a better understanding of disparities to improve access to and engagement with the arts for all people in the Johnson County community by taking collaborative action on arts, education and engagement.

Geneviève Salamone
Violinist, Producer, Composer and Activist

Geneviève Salamone is a professional violinist, producer, composer and designer from the Huron-Wendat Nation. After overcoming 15 years of childhood sexual abuse, she uses her artistic platform to raise awareness on issues surrounding mental health, sexual violence and critical Indigenous movements such as the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and the Indian Residential Schools. She holds a degree in Violin Performance and Indigenous Studies from McGill University and may currently be found performing with her violin duo, the Dueling Fiddles, producing impactful award-winning music within her recording studio, Wendat Records, and designing beadwork and fashion for her Indigenous apparel brand, 4DirectionWear.

DJ Savarese
Artful Activist, Public Speaker, Writer and Teacher

David James “DJ” Savarese is an artful activist, public scholar, multigenre writer and teacher. Co-author of Studies in Brotherly Love (PromptPress, 2021) and author of A Doorknob for the Eye (2017), he has published poems in The Red Wheelbarrow, Seneca Review, Bellingham Review, Nine Mile Magazine, Stone Canoe, Prospect, wordgatherings, Split the Rock, and The Art of Autism. Recent nonfiction publications include “Disrupting the Garden Wall” (LOGIC Magazine: Beacons); “Enmeshing Selves, Words and Media, or Two Life Writers in One Family Talk about Art and Disability” (Er(r)go); and “Unearthing the Concepts That Bury Us,” forthcoming in a scholarly anthology on disability and dialogue. DJ currently co-teaches inclusive, multi-generational, global poetry writing classes, presents nationally and internationally on a range of topics, and directs the Lives-in-Progress Collective at the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports. His Peabody award-winning documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery (2017), which he co-produced and narrated, is set in Iowa. DJ grew up in Grinnell and graduated with a double major in Creative Writing and Anthropology from Oberlin College in 2017. He currently resides in Iowa City. Photo credit: Pamela Harvey Photography

Andrew Simonet
Founder and Director, Artists U and Author of "Making Your Life as an Artist"

Andrew Simonet is writer and choreographer in Philadelphia. From 1993 to 2013, he co-directed Headlong Dance Theater, creating dances like CELL (a journey for one audience member guided by your cell phone), and This Town is a Mystery (dances by four Philadelphia families in their homes). Andrew left Headlong to focus on writing fiction. His debut novel, Wilder, was published in 2018; his second novel, A Night Twice as Long, was published in 2021. His book Making Your Life as an Artist, an open source guide to living as an artist, has been downloaded by 200,000 artists worldwide and is used as a textbook in dozens of university and graduate arts programs. He is on the leadership team for the Tremaine Foundation’s Artists Thrive initiative, the Artist Parent Residencies working group, ArtPlace Assembly/Philadelphia, and Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program.

In 2006, Andrew founded Artists U, an incubator for helping artists make sustainable lives with ongoing programs. All Artists U programs are artist-led, open source, and free for participants. Through workshops, convenings, and one-on-one planning sessions, he has worked directly with over 5,000 artists across all disciplines.

He has received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, an Independence Fellowship in the Arts, a Bessie for Choreography at the New York Dance and Performance Awards, and residencies at Yaddo, Ucross, The Kyoto Art Center, The Studios of Key West, The Santa Fe Art Institute, and Hambidge. His performance work has been supported by The Creative Capital Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Pew Trusts, Rockefeller Foundation, Japan Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts, and produced by Dance Theater Workshop (NYC), P.S. 122 (NYC), Central Park Summerstage, Expo 98 (Lisbon), Dies de Dansa (Barcelona),The Jade Festival (Tokyo), The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

Photo credit: Skye Simonet

Siobhan Spain
Executive Director, Mainframe Studios

Siobhan Spain is the founding director of Mainframe Studios, the largest nonprofit creative workspace in the nation located in Des Moines, Iowa. She has over 25 years of experience in arts administration as an advocate of individual artists. Siobhan has managed contemporary art nonprofit SITE Santa Fe, the studio office of MacArthur Fellow and blacksmith Tom Joyce, and Mary Goldman Gallery in Los Angeles. She has served in committee and board roles for Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines Public Art Foundation, Los Angeles Times’ foundation, and Women, Food & Agriculture Network.

Springboard for the Arts

Founded in 1991, Springboard for the Arts works at the intersection of arts and economic and community development, helping local artists and communities thrive together. Springboard for the Arts' mission is to support artists with the tools to make a living and a life, and to build just and equitable communities full of meaning, joy, and connection. Our work is deeply rooted in both an urban and rural context, with headquarters in St. Paul and Fergus Falls, MN, and seeks to build rural-urban solidarity through shared resources that meet common needs. Our practitioner-led work consists of direct resources, consulting, training, and movement building that supports over 25,000 artists and community members and helps support, incubate and launch over 500 artist-led businesses each year.

Melinda Stockwell
Director/Owner, Villages Folk School and Printmaker

“Preserving presses and renewing traditional print processes is my calling, but paying homage to my upbringing and celebrating aspects of rural life is my passion!”

Melinda Stockwell is a printmaker who rescues and restores historic printing presses. Her colorful prints celebrate the traditions of rural life in Iowa through the use of handset wood type and hand carved linoleum. She earned a Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in Printmaking at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. In 2010, Melinda opened The Calico Press, where she makes art, preserves the history of print and instructs classes.

Kalmia Strong
Artist + Program Director, Public Space One

Kalmia Strong is an arts organizer, artist, bookmaker, and educator, and has worked collaboratively for over a decade to instigate and sustain experimental, community-driven, and cooperative art practices and resources through Iowa City's Public Space One. She is dedicated to understanding and supporting self-organized community spaces, extra-institutional knowledge-sharing, and publication practices in cultural resistance and social change. Kalmia has exhibited and participated in residencies across the US, in Canada, and in Moldova. She is also the Creative Coordinator at the University of Iowa Libraries and an adjunct instructor at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.

Gabriella Torres

Gabriella Torres is a poet, abstract artist and community arts organizer. She specializes in creating large-scale, vibrant abstract paintings that focus on themes of balance and connectivity. She is passionate about creating community-based art experiences that promote civic engagement and the arts. Most recently she activated an underutilized Pocket Park to create an outdoor public art display called, The Grove – an “art forest” consisting of 12 free-standing wooden frames ranging in height from 4 to 10-feet that hold suspended art pieces on canvas panels. She is actively working with city officials to turn The Grove into a permanent outdoor art gallery. Her work can be found at or on Instagram at @gabibirdartist.

Adam Van Osdel
Creative Director, Pottawattamie Arts Culture and Entertainment

“Creating real programs that make a measurable impact in people's lives is essential to this work.”

Adam Van Osdel is Creative Director for Pottawattomie Arts Culture and Entertainment (PACE) at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Van Osdel earned his bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Van Osdel began his career in the arts in 2004 at the Durham Museum creating and designing exhibits and has 20 years experience in museums and art institutes. He has provided design consulting for the Harley Davidson Museum and acted as the Exhibit Designer for the Omaha Children's Museum. Throughout his career, Adam has included teaching as one of his core principles and has lent his experience to Iowa West Community College and Do Space in Omaha. Adam also serves as Vice Chair and Production Designer for TED x Omaha. He owns and operates an award winning art cafe, Edge of the Universe: The Museum Cafe currently being featured on the Travel Channel's show, Eat, Drink, Play.

Jun-Li Wang
Associate Director, Programs, Springboard for the Arts

Jun-Li Wang is a connector of people, places and ideas. As Associate Director, Programs, Wang leads strategy and programs at Springboard for the Arts with a focus on partnership development and community building. Based in Saint Paul and Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Springboard works locally and nationally at the intersection of arts and economic and community development, helping local artists and communities thrive together. Our mission is to support artists with the tools to make a living and a life, and to build just and equitable communities full of meaning, joy and connection.

Wang has extensive experience in asset-based community development, community organizing, neighborhood leadership, workshop curriculum design and implementation, and training. For the past 10 years, she created and led Springboard’s Community Development program, including Irrigate, a nationally-recognized creative placemaking program designed to train and support local artists to address community challenges. She recently completed her third toolkit for Springboard, the Handbook for Artists Working in Community. In recent years, Wang has served on the Saint Paul Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Council Livable Communities Advisory Committee, and the board of Urban Boatbuilders, a metro non-profit serving at-risk youth. Wang holds a BA from Vassar College and MPS in International Development from Cornell University, and though she has lived in Minnesota longer than any other place, some of her heart remains in Berkeley, her childhood home. When time permits, Wang is a craft artist with guerrilla art aspirations.

Taylor Woodcock
Director of Volunteer Engagement, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University Foundation

Taylor is currently developing and implementing a brand-new volunteer engagement strategy with the Iowa State University Foundation to support the goals and objects of the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Before this recent switch, she was the Manager of Volunteer Engagement with Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University for five and a half years where she led all aspects of the growing volunteer program, including recruitment, onboarding and evaluation of hundreds of volunteers and service groups. During her time at the Gardens, the organization was certified as a Service Enterprise through Points of Light. She also previously worked with several museums around the country, including the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and more recently, the Holland Museum and Lakeshore Museum Center in West Michigan.