We're excited to announce the Fall 2021 Humanities Iowa Major Grant award recipients! 
These exciting and diverse projects raise the voices and stories of refugees and immigrants; use storytelling to imagine new possibilities for improving Iowa’s watersheds; explore the life and work of Cedar Falls-based blues guitarist Eddie Bowles; recover the stories of a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Waterloo, and more. Click here to read more.


If you’d like to learn more about how your nonprofit might qualify for Humanities Iowa grants, please visit our grants information page. Our next major grants cycle will open May 2022.



Authors Visiting in Des Moines (AViD) 
Des Moines Public Library Foundation
Tim Paluch, Project Director, $5,000 

AViD is a state-wide cultural program that brings authors with national and international reputations to Des Moines to speak about their writing. Authors are selected from a diverse array of genres and chosen to appeal to a broad adult audience, stimulate critical thinking, deepen understanding, and develop a greater appreciation of the human condition and the written word. Related book discussions, library displays, and a resource-rich website for information about the authors are also available.

Neil Berg Broadway Holiday - Rita Harvey Master Class
Dubuque Arts Council
Dave Grable, Project Director, $7,700
The Dubuque Arts Council will host Neil Berg’s Holiday Broadway Show as one of its Special Events on December 11, 2021. The performance by the Berg troupe will be followed by a Master Class for high school students with Dubuque native Rita Harvey, the show's principal soprano. She will also engage with audience members in a pre-show talk back session, sharing her journey to The Great White Way.

Parsons College Film Documentary
Fair Field Productions (Fairfield)
Dick DeAngelis, Project Director, $10,000

This grant will assist in production and post-production phases of the film “Parsons”. The film asks whether Parsons College was a quality regional Midwest institution of higher learning or a mismanaged party college that crashed and burned in the national spotlight? Or both? “Parsons” delves into the best and the worst of one small town’s college, from early settlers who raised the sum of $27,516.25 to convince the Presbyterian Church elders to locate in Fairfield to stories of previous flunkouts who went on to great success.

Refugees and Immigrants in Iowa Educational Programming
Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (Iowa City)
Dr. Peter Gerlach, Project Director, $9,530
This project’s aim is to raise the voices and share the stories of refugees and immigrants who come to Iowa in order to help our communities to better understand and connect with each other, foster social justice and equality, and develop more informed, thoughtful, empathetic citizens. The project will consist of six free educational programs featuring representatives of ethnic-based community organizations, scholars and artists to discuss issues that affect refugees and immigrants across Iowa. The educational programs will be livestreamed and will be available online after airing; and a final project report will be widely disseminated.

Iowa's Impaired Watersheds Storytelling Project
Iowa Environmental Council (Des Moines)
Dr. Peter Gerlach, Project Director, $9,530
Iowa’s water is in a state of crisis, and the public narratives around water quality in Iowa have become intractable. The issue has been framed as environmentalist vs. farmer and urban vs. rural, but the situation in local communities is more nuanced than a two-sided narrative. This project will utilize a storytelling approach to facilitate dialogue and discussion, listening for and creating new possibilities and new connections among people and water, bringing together diverse communities within impaired watersheds to explore solutions through storytelling, connecting agricultural workers and family farmers, rural and urban dwellers, Native American tribes and suburban landowners. 

Charlie Hunter & Kurt Elling: Panel and Performance
Summer of the Arts (Iowa City)
Lisa J. Barnes, Project Director, $5,000
This grant funds a public panel discussion featuring guitarist Charlie Hunter and jazz vocalist Kurt Elling. The conversation will focus on new approaches to classic jazz composition and how jazz is defined in relation to other musical forms. The grant also assists in the headliner performance by Hunter and Elling at the 2022 Iowa City Jazz Festival. Excitement around these legends abounds because of Hunter’s genre-defying guitar playing combined with Elling’s innovative jazz lyricism. Both events will be free and open to the public. The panel discussion will be recorded and posted online.

The Blues of Eddie Bowles
University of Northern Iowa
Dr. Jim O'Loughlin, Project Director, $6,850 
This is a multi-faceted project exploring the work and life of Cedar Falls-based blues guitarist, Eddie Bowles (1885-1985). Born in New Orleans, Bowles played with both Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory. He became one of the first African American residents of Cedar Falls and influenced a generation of Iowa guitarists. Though he was recognized as a “living legend” toward the end of his life, his contributions have not been fully documented and celebrated. Through a series of linked projects and events (a museum exhibit, a “Best of Eddie Bowles” album release, an augmented reality historical tour of Eddie Bowles’s Cedar Falls, and a Midwinter Blues Getaway weekend), this project uses both traditional and digital humanities approaches to mark Bowles’s historical influence.


The North End Film Documentary
University of Northern Iowa
Dr. Francesca Soans, Project Director, $10,000 

The North End is a 60-minute documentary about the lost places of a predominantly African American neighborhood in Waterloo, Iowa. Through the memories of residents, it reconstructs the importance of this area to the history of Waterloo and Iowa. The documentary explores the economic and cultural history of Waterloo, the legacy of which continues today. The finished documentary will be available for community screenings and discussions on diversity and for educational distribution to public libraries, schools, and higher education institutions.


Cover Image: "RIVER TOWN IN THE USA...1960S" by roberthuffstutter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0