A group of citizens interested in hands-on art experiences for all ages was formed. They called themselves “Voice” and worked with the city recreation programs.
Also in 1976, equipment and supply needs motivated our group to formalize as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Ambroz Arts Advisory Board. During this time we accomplished:
- 1. getting a block building constructed to house a gas kiln for ceramics programs. The kiln was constructed by Board members.
- 2. creating a Very Special Arts Festival for people with disabilities. This included all schools in the seven county area including the cerebral palsy center, and group homes.
- 3. building a gallery from a classroom in the old school housing the Ambroz Recreation Center. This included remodeling the upstairs hallway. This provided opportunities to area artists, participating students, schools, and guest artists to display their work to a large audience, including many who would otherwise never feel comfortable entering a gallery.
- 4. bringing guest artists in a variety of mediums for workshops and presentations to the general public.
- 5. receiving a grant to help us acquire and install a new Alpine 24 cu.ft. kiln. This replaced the Board constructed one.
- 6. starting an acoustic music festival which introduced area musicians. The funds raised provided materials and purchased equipment to be used by the city and Art Board's programs, for example, easels, darkroom equipment, potters wheels, extruders, and slab roller. This also continued to allow us to bring in guest artists.
Interest in stained glass was starting on both coasts at this time. The Board started the first Midwestern glass classes and opened a small store to sell glass supplies providing a year round source of funding for our projects.
Adult art class participation provided by the city and the Art Board had doubled. School art classes were in need of support so our goal was to increase youth participation in our classes. Toward this end our elementary Raku art project was created. It was an integrated curricular outreach which has all students, teachers, and staff in a hands-on Raku experience. This drew interest from School Arts magazine as a prime example of an integrated arts program in education. This continues to this day doing one to two schools per year. As a result the Raku project has changed participation in youth programs from approximately 75 to over 700 participants annually.
A second program was established for middle school students. This had the students explore three art forms during a week of activities. We brought in guests artists who were experts in varied mediums but also provided career insights to the attending seventh graders. “This is science!” was a typical comment from teachers as they watched the hot glass-blowing demonstrations.
During the summers in the 80's, we ran summer programs for the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC). It was a positive experience that surprised many by the participants' accomplishments.
We began the Cedar Rapids Ethnic Festival as a showcase of ethnic art and culture in our area. Community nonprofit ethnic organizations were invited to participate. Monies earned provided a host of services. This turned the Festival into a community celebration of accomplishments provided by all organizations throughout the year.
We began Christkindlmarkt, based on a European Christmas market. These were hand-crafted products imported from all over the world. This included a glass blower and his daughter from former East Germany. During the week prior, over 1000 school children were bussed in to learn about life in the former East Germany and of the craft of glass blowing which was developed from a 1500's glass blowing center.
The Board started another educational outreach program for elementary gifted students. This provided a week's culminating experience following a five month's study period.
With the declining dollar and reorganization of the city, the Board sensed a decline in the recreation department's support of the arts. In order to continue the programs and serve the city's needs, the Board explored potential avenues less dependent on the recreation department. They leased a building to become a gallery and studios as a base for their operations. As a result, the Board reorganized as Iowa Art Works, Inc.
During this time, the Board continued to offer Raku classes in the schools and were given temporary space by Mount Mercy College for their summer programs.
Between the years 1974-2006, the Board has provided to the community thousands of dollars of supplies and the use of basic and innovative art equipment, such as digital music labs and computerized photo labs. They have received recognition as a group and individually through State Park and Recreation awards and by the National Park and Recreation Association. The Board has annually donated no less than the equivalent of five full-time people to the various endeavors described above.
We are thrilled with the establishment of the Ceramics Center in our new home in the Cherry Building and look forward to serving the Cedar Rapids community for many years to come.
In January 2017, the board approved changing the name from The Ceramics Center to iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio to reflect our growing glass studio and classes.