John Lithgow with a student learning how to draw

Learning a New Art Locally

by Caryline Clark

In an era dominated by digital screens and virtual experiences, the transformative power of art has never been more vital. Yet, for many adults, the thought of delving into new artistic endeavors can seem daunting. Amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life lies a vibrant and accessible opportunity right here in Iowa — you just have to know where to look.

From pottery workshops to music jam sessions, these communal spaces in cities across the state offer more than just instruction — they provide a nurturing environment for personal growth, connection and discovery. This is exactly what John Lithgow discovers in his upcoming PBS special, Art Happens Here With John Lithgow.

In this new one-hour program, actor, author, humorist and renowned performer John Lithgow shares his passion for arts education by joining students and teachers at four Los Angeles organizations, diving into four arts disciplines: dance, ceramics, silk-screen printing and vocal jazz ensemble. Celebrating how arts education nurtures and inspires the hearts and minds of students of all ages, Art Happens Here follows Lithgow as he tries his hand at singing, dancing, printmaking and pottery, working alongside and learning from young people whose lives are being transformed by art. Read on to get inspired yourself.

Community Colleges

Exploring art in your community can be an enriching experience, and local community colleges often provide excellent opportunities for adults to engage in creative pursuits. In Iowa, many colleges offer continuing education programs that cater to various interests in the arts. You could try out a new form of music, like piano or guitar, or take an art class like pottery or photography. 

For instance, DMACC in Central Iowa offers an array of photography courses, including photographing different subjects, digital photography and editing classes. Lakes Community College in Northwest Iowa is currently offering a class on how Broadway shows were adapted from the stage into film productions. Kirkwood Community College in Eastern Iowa has an entire collection of classes for glass blowing. 

Whether you're looking to try out a new musical instrument or hone your skills in visual arts, your local community college is a fantastic place to start your artistic journey.

Community Organizations 

Since 2013, Girls Rock! Des Moines has been empowering cis-girls and women, non-binary, and trans youth and adults through self-expression, creative agency and mentoring in music and arts-based education, collaboration, performance and production. This organization has a We Jam program for cis-women, nonbinary and trans adults to let their inner rocker out! No musical experience is necessary, so this is a great opportunity to try out something new with no expectations. 



The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offers a wide variety of programs for adults to explore their inner artist including Art Bites, Art Chats and their Art Lovers Book Club. These opportunities allow you to learn more about current exhibitions, visit with current artists and immerse yourself in the arts. You’ll be inspired in no time. 

The Des Moines Art Center offers free educational resources for individuals of all ages as well, offering a variety of programs and resources to the community that utilize the artwork in the collections and exhibitions at the Art Center. You can attend a lecture and gallery talk, see a public performance or participate in a hands-on activity.

The Sioux City Art Center also offers many classes for all ages, like their upcoming alcohol ink workshop, where participants will create a beautiful spring-time-inspired scarf. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced crafter, the Sioux City Art Center welcomes you. Their drop-in classes on Saturday are perfect for having fun while unleashing your artistic side.

Explore your own community to find areas where you might get connected with local artists. 


Iowa PBS Content

Crafts From the Past introduces hobbies from decades past, offering a primer to various techniques by experienced Iowa makers. Some crafts you can learn include paper quilling, folded book art and tatting. Stained glass making is becoming increasingly popular and you can learn the basics from this series! 


Do you want to express yourself through movement? The sport of breakdancing has come a long way in 50 years and will make its Olympic debut at the 2024 Paris games. Check out this feature story from Iowa Life about DSM Breakerz, a non-profit that aims to offer a safe environment for people to practice the art of breaking through classes, performances or competitions. 


Get inspired about how your artistic expression could benefit your community in this digital short from In Their Words. Arsh Pal, a talented young artist from Iowa who aspires to give painting lessons to pupils of all ages. Arsh saw a need in his community so he began selling his artwork and donating the proceeds to charity.


If you need a little bit of inspiration before starting a new art project of your own, check out your own community murals. In this latest digital short from Iowa PBS Express, you’ll learn more about the colorful murals that are popping up on building walls in towns across Iowa. You just might get inspired to create something of your own! 


Get inspired to create something in your community and watch Art Happens Here With John Lithgow on April 28 at 2 p.m. or anytime on the PBS App.