For well over three decades, the James and Meryl Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls has provided venues for poets, visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, lecturers, writers, playwrights, students, and arts aficionados of all ages.  Opening in May of 1989, James and Meryl’s former residence was willed to the city in 1983 and reconstructed as a 12,000 square foot arts center with two galleries, three classrooms, a sculpture garden, two meeting rooms, office space, and a performing arts facility. 

The facility hosts a variety of classes for young writers, poets, and painters, as well as adult education courses and a photography club.  In addition, the Center hosts a “Final Thursday” monthly open mic opportunity that includes readings and discussions from published local and regional authors. Musicians and composers from the UNI School of Music offer a lunch hour concert monthly, and a “Slow Art Lunch Club” for sharing perceptions of current gallery offerings over lunch. The Cedar Valley Acoustic Guitar Association also presents concerts from its members, featuring acoustic blues and folk music. With the Waterloo Center for the Arts, the Center offered a bus field trip tour in October of artists’ studios which included lunch in Decorah and visits to a number of professional artists’ studios around northeast Iowa. 

Some recent class offerings include “Messy Mornings” for children ages 3-6, “Doodlesplats” Saturday morning classes with print, paint, collage, and sketching for 10-12 years olds, “Muddy Makers,” featuring ceramics for ages 6-9, and “Groove,” which features Saturday morning explorations of music, beats, and performance, for a variety of ages from 4-12. For adults, the Centers currently offers Studio Painting, Introduction to Watercolor painting, Felt Animal Sculptures, Creative Writing, Beginning Wheel Throwing (Ceramics), Lineoleum Printmaking, Polymer Clay Pendants and Beads, and open studio time with three-month passes. In December, in conjunction with the Iowa Arts Council, the Center will co-sponsor “Poetry Out Loud” presenting opportunities for local 9-12th grade students to compete in the yearly National Poetry Recitation Competition. 

The Hearst Center for the Arts is a vital community resource, offering ongoing and affordable opportunities for exploring, performing, creating, and attending the fine arts.   –Scott Cawelti

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