Partners Unlimited
"My whole attitude changed!"

The History

In 1998, a group of agencies came together to discuss the creation of professional arts residencies in working with youth and adult adjudicated programs. The organizations included the Des Moines Art District, Iowa Arts Council, PACE Juvenile Justice Center, Meyer Hall + Polk County Youth Services, Youthful Offenders Program & the Fort Des Moines Men’s Residential Facility/5th Judicial District, Civic Center, Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, and VSA arts of Iowa.

This was a unique opportunity for these agencies to sit at the same table together. A consensus was formed that all of the organizations knew the value of the arts and wanted to see the residencies become long-term. The group hired international Arts in Corrections Consultant, Grady Hillman to provide technical assistance in developing the collaboration. The program became known as HeARTland Collaborations and received funding from the Department of Corrections, 5th Judicial district and the Iowa Arts Council, via our fiscal agent--the Des Moines Art District to conduct four projects at three adult and one youth facility.

HeARTland Collaborations Pilot project - major accomplishments

A 6-month pilot project was conducted in 2000, in central Iowa correctional and juvenile facilities. The four sites included:

Fort Des Moines Correctional Complex "REDEMPTION"
12'x 18' canvas mural created at the Southridge Mall by the residents, participating staff and directed by partners artist, Dennis Adams<
Youth Directions
On-going theatre program with partners artist, T Valada Viars & visual artist, Ellen Robinson at Broadlawns Hospital
Iowa Correctional Institution for Women
30-minute dance production created by the residents and participating staff under the direction of partners artist, Lana Lyddon Hatten and services of Co'Motion Dance Theatre
Fort Dodge Correctional Institution
"Respect", 25-minute theatre production created by the residents and participating staff under the direction of partners artist, T Valada Viars

The HeARTland Collaborations Pilot Project superceded all expectations. The 6-month pilot, evaluated by Dr. Rachel Williams, University of Iowa Professor of Arts Education, confirmed at each site:

  • significant decrease in behavior problems
  • notable improvement in discipline
  • positive institutional attitude
  • significant improvement in physical and mental health

Due to the needs identified in the pilot, partners Unlimited was formed. This project gave birth to a new way of thinking and working with youths and adults in schools, communities and corrections. Community, state and national organizations will soon be engaging high risk individuals in the creative arts- we're in the business of transforming lives. partners Unlimited.

In the spring of 2001, partners Unlimited was formed. Our first program was funded by the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy in collaboration with the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, IA. We provided two arts programs in dance and storytelling, ending with a community performance titled, "Metanoia…changing mind, body and soul".

2002-2003 we were invited to join the Polk County Fostering Male Involvement Coalition, funded by the Iowa Department of Human Services, Pregnancy Prevention Grant to conduct three programs involving theatre and Native American cultural arts at Children and Family Urban Ministries, PACE Juvenile Justice Center and Scavo Campus. We are now in our second year of the Pregnancy Prevention Grant, working at the same sites with the same art forms.