Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District designation recognizes well-identified, walkable, mixed-use, compact areas of a city or county in which a high concentration of arts and cultural facilities serves as the anchor. These districts are attracting residents and tourists who support adjacent businesses such as restaurants, lodging facilities, retail stores and entertainment venues. The program goals are to distinguish those districts which have created unique cultural centers and prioritized visitor experiences; promote the districts and their supported activities; and provide technical assistance and professional development opportunities.
The program, defined in Iowa Code 303.3B, is administered by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, pursuant to the authority of Iowa Administrative Code Section 221, Chapter 9.
Fiscal Year 2021 Application Deadline
The deadline to submit an online application to the program has been extended from May 1, 2020 to June 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
Applicants will be notified of designation decisions within 8 weeks of the application deadline.
Iowa Cultural & Entertainment Districts Designation
Iowa was the second state in the nation to initiate a state certification program for Cultural & Entertainment Districts. Recognizing that a thriving creative sector is integral to the state’s economy, state designation of districts cultivates a supportive climate for cultural activities; enhances the visibility of vibrant, authentic places; and encourages the preservation of irreplaceable historic properties. To be designated, a Cultural & Entertainment District must already be an area where arts and cultural activities thrive. Designation by the state is an achievement, intended to formally recognize that a particular locale is an acknowledged cultural destination.
Before a Cultural & Entertainment District becomes designated by the state, it must be an established district that is widely viewed and readily recognized as a hub of cultural activity. It is a gathering place, filled with cultural facilities, arts organizations, individual artists or arts-based businesses, as well as an array of other uses such as office complexes, restaurants, retail spaces or residences. It has well-defined boundaries and people can sense when they have arrived at this unique place. The presence of arts and cultural opportunities enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses and the tax base of the area. These districts attract a diverse and engaged workforce – a key incentive for new and relocating businesses.
Once designated, the state, through the efforts of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, shall endeavor to promote projects and initiatives implemented by the Cultural & Entertainment Districts through established networks. Designated Cultural & Entertainment Districts are provided an “Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District” sign. These signs serve to market and promote the district. Designated Cultural & Entertainment Districts are encouraged to use the “Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District” logo in marketing efforts. Additionally, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs staff will provide technical assistance to Cultural & Entertainment Districts, including communication on grant opportunities, professional development workshops and best practices from other Cultural & Entertainment Districts.
Beginning one year after designation, Cultural & Entertainment Districts are expected to submit an annual report due August 1 to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The report will document the status of the Cultural & Entertainment District, including documentation on the number of new businesses, activities and promotional efforts within the past year.
Per statute language, all designated Cultural & Entertainment Districts are required to apply for re-designation every ten years. The re-designation process will include updating information on the cultural district identity, operations and programming information, Cultural & Entertainment District assets, goals for the next ten years, accomplishments from the previous ten years and economic impact.
A single entity must be selected to serve as the primary applicant for designation, while incorporating collaboration between a consortium of partners. The selected entity must meet the definition of eligible applicant. The applicant will be responsible for submitting the annual report and will be the entity legally obligated to the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding if awarded designation. Partners and collaborating entities are not subject to the eligibility requirements.
Eligible applicants must be one of the following types of entities. Entities who do not meet these requirements are not eligible to apply.
- Federally tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated and physically located in Iowa
- Unit of local, county or federally-recognized tribal government physically located in Iowa
- For-profit or commercial entity located in Iowa
Physical location is defined as maintaining a current home office and registered agent address in Iowa defined by Iowa Code 490.501 as well as maintaining a primary staff presence physically located and working in Iowa.
- Unit of state or federal government
- School or institution of higher education
- Religious organization, labor union, political party or national service/professional organization
- Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs grantees who have an outstanding final report or who have been placed on a department funding moratorium
Online Application Submission
Applicants must submit applications via the Iowa Arts Council’s SlideRoom, an online application portal. Applications will not be accepted in any other format. Late, incomplete or ineligible applications will not be accepted. Applicants can access the current online application requirements at iowaartscouncil.slideroom.com. Applicants must create a login to view the full application requirements for the program. Applicants can visit help.liaisonedu.com for SlideRoom assistance related to the online submission.
Designation Review Process
Department Eligibility Review
Full applications will be reviewed by staff for completion, eligibility and adherence to published guidelines. Applications are reviewed as submitted. New application information or subsequent application clarification submitted after a program deadline is not considered. Staff will also review an applicant’s record of compliance and good standing with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State and Federal government. Applications or applicants determined by staff to be ineligible or incomplete will not move forward to panel review and are specifically denied any appeals process.
Eligible applications will be referred to a competitive review by a panel of Iowa arts and culture professionals with appropriate expertise commensurate to the purpose of the designation program. Designation recommendations will be submitted to the Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs for consideration and approval. The applicant’s authorized official will receive designation notification. All decisions are final and may not be appealed due to dissatisfaction. Applicants may review the department appeals policy for information on grounds for appeal and the appeal process.