Arts and Culture

March 2017

Local arts are a big draw throughout Eastern Iowa

by Carolyn Blackburn

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    Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2017/0317/MT_0317_Iowa_Dubuque Museum of Art_Dubuque IA (2).jpg

    Dubuque Museum of Art, Dubuque IA

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    Pinot’s Palette, Dubuque

Groups meeting in Eastern Iowa’s meetings-friendly cities can easily create an inspiring event by adding a local arts experience to the agenda.

From tours that celebrate the written word and hands-on classes in glassmaking and calligraphy, to amazing theaters and museums that double as off-site venues for memorable group gatherings, the arts are palpable in this lively region.

Cedar Rapids

A great arts outing in Cedar Rapids features a tour of the Grant Wood Studio, where in 1930 the artist painted the iconic American Gothic, followed by a reception at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, which houses the largest Grant Wood collection in the world.

“This is a signature Cedar Rapids experience and can be made quirky with backdrops and costumes so attendees could pose and re-create the famous painting,” said Julie Stow, director of meetings and conventions for GO Cedar Rapids.  

It’s also a convenient experience, as several group-friendly properties are located within walking distance, including the 267-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, which boasts 80,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.

“Groups of all sizes will also enjoy a private reception and behind-the-scenes tour of Cedar Rapids’ crown jewel, the historic and beautifully restored Paramount Theatre, before a performance,” said Stow, who cited a calendar filled with Broadway shows, Orchestra Iowa performances and nationally touring concerts. “This is very customizable for groups, and if dates don’t match with touring shows, we can connect you with amazing local talent.”

One more fun arts idea is a hands-on workshop at The Ceramics Center, which also has a mobile unit for those groups that can’t visit the studio.

“Work in glass or clay to create a unique piece themed for your group,” Stow said.


The Dubuque Museum of Art, situated in the heart of downtown within walking distance of many meetings-friendly hotels, is a must-visit for groups seeking an intriguing arts outing.

Attendees can explore the museum, which showcases over 2,200 artworks including pieces by Grant Wood, Salvador Dali and many more.

“Its two floors of flowing exhibits make it a unique location for evening receptions for up to 200 people,” said Julie Kronlage, vice president of sales for the Dubuque Area CVB.
  Groups with attendees who prefer to do their own painting can check out Pinot’s Palette, a paint-and-sip studio that hosts teambuilding events and private parties.

“Groups of up to 50 will enjoy their historic building in downtown Dubuque while working together to create beautiful paintings,” Kronlage said.

An excellent idea for groups that would like to get outside for an inspiring stroll is a visit to Art on the River, a collection of works created by artists from across the country that is on display along the Mississippi River.

“See, touch and feel these works of art as you walk down the beautiful Mississippi Riverwalk,” Kronlage said. “End your time with a reception in the beautiful Alliant Energy Amphitheater at the Star Brewery with live music, food and networking.”

Iowa City/Coralville Area  

Since 1972, the Hancher Auditorium has been a favorite arts facility at the Iowa City-based University of Iowa. A revitalized Hancher, which opened in September 2016 after eight years of flood recovery, features a lineup of performances ranging from orchestra and dance to Broadway productions.

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