Category Archives: Art

Art and Writing Summer Programs

High school students, don’t miss your chance to join our summer art and writing programs. Hurry – classes start soon!  

Summer Art Residency
Grades 9-12

High school artists will earn college credit for doing what they love! The University of Iowa houses a nationally ranked School of Art. Our talented faculty have been teaching art online all year long, and they know how to do it right! Students will receive 2 semester hours of graded University of Iowa credit. This will appear on an official university transcript that they can add to their college applications!

Summer Writing Residency
Grades 9-12

High school students will have the unique opportunity to work with world-class writing faculty from the University of Iowa – better known as the Writing University and home to the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop and landmark Prairie Lights bookstore. Students will receive 2 semester hours of graded University of Iowa credit. This will appear on an official university transcript that they can add to their college applications!

Workshop for Young Writers 
Grades 6-8

Middle school students will meet classmates from across the country and passionate instructors from the “Writing University” to help build a writing community. Accepted students can look forward to developing their writing skills, workshopping their pieces among peers, and expanding their creative abilities.

New 2020 Summer Program for Students!

Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Students from 2nd to 8th grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in this program.

JSA is a summer commuter program designed specifically for bright elementary and middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while having fun with other kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we’re sure to have something for any curious kid.

Applications open December 15th and will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff. Program acceptance is based on a review of the student’s strengths and interests. The selection committee works to ensure that the class is a good academic fit to nurture the student’s potential. Participation in a school’s gifted education program is not required.

Grade bands for JSA will be 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, with the structure consisting of four 1-week sessions. Choose any one (or more!) that works best for you:

  • Session 1 is June 15-19
  • Session 2 is June 22-26
  • Session 3 is July 6-10
  • Session 4 is July 13-17

Find more information here:

Looking for a residential opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students? The Blank Summer Institute (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th- grade students, nominated by their schools.

Applications for all of our student summer programs open December 15th at Please email us at with any questions!

We hope to see you this summer!

Must-See Summer Enrichment Classes for Middle School Students

If you’re still looking for summer programs for curious middle school students, look no further! Our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) still has limited seats available in some amazing classes. Check them out before it’s too late!

Robot Theater: Exploring with Cozmo

The focus of this class is to learn the basics of dramatic storytelling that incorporate robot technology (Cozmo, created by Anki) as part of the story. If you have written a script, story, or poem that you have been dreaming of seeing performed on stage, then this class is for you—our Cozmos will be your actors. If you have an interest in robotics and want to work with sophisticated technology, then this class is for you—Cozmo will introduce you to the world of robotics. No previous experience with writing, puppetry, theatre, or working with robots is required.

Environmental Engineering

Students will be exposed to real-world environmental challenges Iowans face with an emphasis on flooding and access to clean water. Through an interactive learning environment, students will connect with professionals from a variety of related fields to learn how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events, but then also mitigate for future disasters to build community resilience. Classroom learning will be mobile and designed to engage the students in career settings providing opportunities for practicing professional development skills.

Mixed Media Workshop

Are you ready for an exciting week of action-packed art adventures? If so, this class is for you! Our week will be an exciting exploration of several different kinds of art making. You will try your hand at a variety of studio projects throughout the week. The two-dimensional art portion of the class will involve some printmaking, drawing, and painting. The stop motion animation segment will introduce you to the basics of stop-motion in the making of an awesome animation that you will shoot, edit, and create music and sound effects. You will work on individual pieces, as well as work in small groups. Exploring collaboration in small groups will allow us to put our brains together to come up with unique, creative solutions. We will go on a couple of field trips to get ideas for work and look at other artists’ work. Bring your adventurous spirit and creative brain. It’s going to be a great week of getting a little messy, learning some new techniques, getting your creative juices flowing, and challenging yourselves.

Archaeology: Discover the Past!

Ever wonder how archaeologists know where to find ancient sites? Or how rocks and bones provide them clues about how people lived? Archaeologists are scientific detectives, studying people from the past and the objects they left behind. In this course, you will learn to think like an archaeologist using scientific inquiry. We will study real artifacts in the research labs at the Office of the State Archaeologist and participate in hands-on lessons and activities to learn about Iowa’s archaeological past, from the Ice Age to the first Europeans. You will also learn how today’s Native American communities work with archaeologists to strengthen our understanding of their cultures. Part of this course will take place at an outdoor classroom at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, where we will learn archaeology field techniques to document a real archaeological site!

Other open classes include Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference, Women in Engineering, and Project Discovery: Finding Your Writer’s Voice.

Participation in your school’s talented and gifted program is not required. Payment plans and financial aid are available. If you think JSI sounds like a good fit for your student, be sure to check it out at or contact Ashlee Van Fleet at!

The Scoop on Summer Programs at the Belin-Blank Center

If all the recent school closure days have you thinking ahead to how you’re going to keep your children occupied over summer vacation, now is a great time to start planning! At the Belin-Blank Center, we specialize in bright kids. Whether or not they participate in their school’s gifted and talented program, if your child shows a deep curiosity when a topic sparks their interest, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area, they will feel right at home here!

Our summer programs are designed specifically for students in grades 2-11 who want to take a deep dive into a topic while having fun with other kids who share their level of interest and ability. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes!

For example, grade school students can choose from classes such as Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, and Programming in our Blast program. Middle school schools students can apply for our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) to explore Leadership, Women in Engineering, Archaeology, 3D Printing, or a Mixed Media art workshop, among many other options. High school students can learn about the research process and just what is involved in creating new knowledge in our Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI). Class sizes are kept small (a maximum of 16-20, depending on age group), to ensure that each student has a positive experience learning something they enjoy.

The programs take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving students access to valuable university-level experts and resources. Our instructors are vetted professionals, including classroom teachers, local artists, and professors who have the expertise to delve into a subject at an advanced level, while keeping it accessible for the age group. Classes utilize specialized spaces and equipment, such as research laboratories, the Van Allen Observatory, 3D printing facilities, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, art studios, maker spaces and the university library.

We understand that many bright students may also have a disability or impairment that can present behavioral, emotional, social, or learning challenges. Our staff are experts in gifted education and talent development, and we offer specialized social and academic support for these twice-exceptional students.

If you think our programs sound like a good fit for your child, be sure to check them out at Payment plans and financial aid are available. With options for students from elementary to high school, covering a wide range of topics, we’re sure to have something for you and your family. We can’t wait for you to join us this summer!

A New Summer Opportunity for High School Artists and Writers

We are excited to announce our new Summer Art Residency and Summer Writing Residency!  Spend 3 weeks this summer in an immersive art or writing residency on one of the premier arts campuses in the US.   Participate in classes, workshops, evening tours, lectures, and events that will stretch you as an artist or writer. The residency concludes with an art and reading show and a portfolio review. Priority will be given to students who have participated in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  Applications are currently being accepted.

Summer Art Residency

Summer Writing Residency

Join Us for Saturday Fun on September 9th!

UPDATE: All seats are now filled for September 9th; however, we do still have availability in our October date for 4th-6th graders and 6th-8th graders, and February classes will be up soon.  You may also join the waitlist for classes that are full – occasionally we have drops and can add students from that waitlist.

Do you have a 2nd-8th grader with an interest and talent in robots, circuits, geography, art, or science fiction?  Check out the classes for our upcoming WINGS date on September 9th in Iowa City!

A variety of classes are available, such as Watercolor Science (grades 2-4). In this workshop, students will use chemistry to create their very own watercolor paints. Using cabbage dye and household items, students will learn about the pH scale and mix their own liquid watercolor palette. Using our homemade watercolors, we will learn about other nifty watercolor tricks and techniques including using salt, rubbing alcohol, and wax to create watercolor works of art!

Another option is Making A World Through Science Fiction Writing (grades 6-8).  Want to build and explore your favorite sci-fi setting in VR? In this course, we’ll talk about what makes our favorite sci-fi worlds so rich and enjoyable.

We’ll try designing and possibly exploring some of these worlds using the virtual reality design program, CoSpaces. Once we’ve spent some time exploring, we’ll work on coming up with ideas for worlds of our own and some stories that could happen there.

And if you already have plans on the 9th, we have several additional WINGS dates coming up, too.

Costumes, Poetry, and Dancing at the Scholastic Celebration

Students who received a Gold Key, Silver Key, or Honorable Mention for their submission to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (Iowa or Midwest Regions) were invited to our Scholastic Celebration!

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Come Join Us This Summer For Blast!

Check out more about the courses below and additional academic programming at

Expanding Opportunities for Young Artists and Writers

We are very pleased to announce that the Belin-Blank Center and Assistant Director for Student Services Jan Warren received the 2016 Gold Key for Excellence in the Field award from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  This award is given annually to an Affiliate Partner organization that demonstrates extraordinary dedication to creative young people, perseveres through challenges over time, and expands the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program to reach more participants.

Jan Gold Key Scholastic-1

Virginia McEnerney, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, presented the award to Ms. Warren during the annual celebration of national award winners in New York City.  “The Alliance selected you and the Belin-Blank Center to receive this Award because the organization has gone above and beyond basic program requirements to provide additional opportunities for creative teenagers in the state of Iowa, as well as the thousands of students in the greater Midwest who do not have the same local opportunities for recognition.”

Jan Warren accepting Scholastic award

This past year, the Belin-Blank Center processed and adjudicated almost 10,000 pieces of art and writing from nearly 7,000 students.  In addition to the awards process, the Center has engaged community partners to provide additional scholarship opportunities and developed a blog (Freehand) for young artists and writers.  Students may begin submitting works for the coming year in September.

Mark Your Calendar!

We have WINGS coming up on March 5! 

Grades 2-4:

You Scream, I Scream! The Science of Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream!? Come learn about the science of ice cream, and maybe even get to do some taste testing!

ice cream


First Contact

We will learn about the Columbian Exchange! From it came many exciting times but also many consequences. Come learn more!


Grades 4-6:

CSI: Crime Scene Investigators!

Come learn how to be a real crime scene investigator by learning how to lift fingerprints and analyze evidence!

magnifying glass

Slam Poetry

Come create and perform a poetry slam with other young writers!


Grades 6-8:

Two Observational Astronomical Instruments

Interested in learning more about astronomy and creating your own refracting telescope? Sign up to take this class!


Visit to learn more and register!

Get the Latest News from the Belin-Blank Center

Our December newsletter is out, featuring everything from bunny slippers to webinars!

December newsletter

Message from the Director: Thanks a Million x 10!!

Question: What is the result of juxtaposing generosity and inspiration with excellence in programming and collaboration?

Answer: Educational leadership and innovation designed to create outstanding educational experiences for some of the world’s most capable high-school-aged students, all supported through an endowed program made possible with a $10 million dollar commitment to the Belin-Blank Center.


In the February newsletter, we’ll have additional details regarding the program and the people who inspired philanthropist Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan to create an endowment for this unique and highly specialized program (formal naming subject to Board of Regents, State of Iowa approval). The endowment will include merit scholarships to students admitted to this specialized program and comprehensive programming to support the scholarship recipients.  Learn more at

This exciting news is an indescribably incredible welcome to 2016.  While the calendar year is just winding down, 2016 has been a major presence at the Belin-Blank Center since August, when we commenced planning for summer. In fact, it’s not too early for professionals and students to think about this coming summer.

At the same time, it’s not too late for parents to register students for spring 2016 opportunities, including above-level testing through BESTS and enrichment experiences through the Weekend Institute for Gifted Students (WINGS). Likewise, professionals have myriad options for spring professional development, including a webinar on twice-exceptionality and several courses offering from one to three semester hours of credit.

An end-of-year edition of a newsletter would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the highlights from the past 12 months and an expression of gratitude to the people responsible for the highlights as well as the every-day activities, which form the foundation of the center’s programming. My thanks to the Belin-Blank Center’s staff of 14 administrators, 5 secretaries, 19 students (including graduate, practicum, and undergraduate students), 2 faculty partners, and 2 resource staff members. Through our collaborations, we made possible the two-volume publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students; summer programming for 743 pre-college students; the installation of the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Gallery; the launch of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program for middle-school students; professional development courses and workshops that resulted in 852 credit hours earned by 572 educators; the creation of I-Excel, an online above-level test for advanced 4th-6th grade students; specialized social-skills groups for high-ability students; and at least 15 paper, poster, round-table, special sessions at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) conference in Phoenix.

Our founders and benefactors continue to inspire our work with the students and professionals we serve. We look forward to continuing this work into the next year! Happy New Year!!

Attention, Iowa Middle School Teachers!

BSIThe Blank Summer Institute nomination process will be new and improved this year! We will make the nomination process available to educators in December and it will now be entirely electronic. No more papers to print and no more packages to mail! Nominations will be due March 1st.

Watch our website for more information on how to nominate students in the new system.

Did You Miss the October WINGS? Join Us in November!

005The Weekend Institute Gifted Students (WINGS) will be back on November 7th with classes in the morning and afternoon.

Topics being offered include; Great Goo Investigations! Adventures in Animation and Comic Book Art, Logical Leaps, Robot Theater and The Neuroscience of Abnormal Psychology.

Find out more  at

Missing Summer Already?

120If you had a great time at Blast this summer, come join the Belin-Blank Center for Challenge Saturdays this fall! You do not have to be a part of a talented and gifted program to participate; just ready for a fast-paced and challenging class. Tell all your friends!

Registration is open for a fantastic line-up of classes. Classes include:

  • LEGO Robotics
  • Painting and the Jurassic
  • Innovation, Invention and Engineering
  • Discover Greek Mythology
  • Science Wizards
  • MindCraft Brain Training
  • Investigation 101: Dry Ice, Chemistry and Physics Explorations.

Challenge Saturdays begin September 12th, so sign up today at

It’s Not Too Late to Spend Summer on the Brain

There are still seats available for our summer programs!  Here are just a few of the options:

Hawkeye-Coderdojo-2014-350Engage in innovation, inventiveness and entrepreneurship utilizing technology industry skills at the Innovation Institute (grades 9-11)!  We’re looking for highly creative students interested in product marketing, as well as coders and designers. Students do not need to possess all desired characteristics; instead they will form teams with these multiple strengths and interests.


Blast (grades 2-6)

  • Writing: Every Dog Has Its Day! (grades 4-6)
  • The Power of the Pen: News Writing and Reporting (grades 4-6)
  • Write it! Perform it! (grades 4-6)

Learn about these classes and more at!

Summer is Coming!

Just think for a moment…

  • EXPLORE exciting activities that build friendships
  • ENJOY challenging courses taught by inspiring teachers
  • EXPERIENCE life on a college campus

Sound fun? Then join us this summer and choose from over 50 classes in science, art, leadership, math, writing, and more. Be one of the over 800 students that will be a part of Summer on the Brain at the Belin-Blank Center.

To find out more and apply for classes, visit

Looking for Something Awesome to Do on a Saturday?

DSC_0051Are you interested in using different techniques to create artwork? What about the science of food and how our body uses it? Do you enjoy performing and making people laugh? Or are you captivated by studying optical illusions? Come to the Belin-Blank Center for WINGS on March 28! To learn more and register, click on one of the classes below:

The Paintings of Joan Miro (Grades 2 through 4)

In this class we will be experiencing the artwork of Joan Miro’. We will explore his technique, media, use of color, and subject matter. We will also be using Joan Miro’s artwork as an inspiration to create different art projects reflecting his vision and palette.  Read more…

The Science of Food (Grades 4 through 6)

What is food really? We will take a look at the four major molecules that make up our bodies and talk about how we acquire all those components into our bodies. Did you know that we eat some food just because our bodies need to break and re-form the bonds that hold the food atoms together?  Read more…

Beginning Improv: Short-form Performance (Grades 6 through 8)

A “Whose Line is it Anyway” style class for young performers! Students will practice teamwork and problem solving in a high-energy, physical environment. Anything can happen in improv, and we will explore methods that encourage interaction, freedom, and fun within the framework of short-form games. Read more…

Optical Illusions (Grades 2 through 4)

If you think everything you see is real, then join this class to challenge your ideas! In this class you will experience many captivating optical illusions. Then, you will explore the best scientific explanations we have for why and how the illusions work.  Read more…

We hope to see you soon!  Visit for more information.

Have You Seen Our February Newsletter?


We’ve got news, details about our summer programs, an exciting new blog, and more!  Visit to get the latest news from the Center.

Want to be the first to hear news from us?  Subscribe to our newsletter!

Calling All Artists and Writers!

Freehand screenshot

We are excited to announce a new blog by and for the students in the Iowa and Midwest Regions of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program.  Freehand: Midwest Scholastic at the Belin-Blank Center will explore the creative process, spotlight our artists and writers, and introduce you to the people and programs at the Belin-Blank Center.  Go to to read and see more.  Be sure to visit the blog’s menu and sign up to receive an email notification every time there’s a new Freehand post!

Will You Spend Summer on the Brain?

JSI 291

Applications continue to be accepted for several of our Belin-Blank Center Summer programs!  Elementary (Blast), junior high (JSI), and high school (NSI, WLI) students can read more about classes and programs at  Read what students (and parents) from last summer had to say…

“Just to reiterate – this program is of highest caliber. Hats off to your staff for recruiting and working with such talented teachers who love what they do and who make kids excited about learning.” ~ Blast parent

“I loved the deep thinking in this class and learning new things!” ~ Blast student

“This is the best camp I have ever been to. I have had the most fun and met the most people that I can really connect with and understand. Thank you for this experience.” ~ JSI student

“I am thankful for many of the events, friendships, and academic techniques I have learned throughout this past week. The one thing I most enjoyed, though, was meeting a fantastic group of people that opens my network to an entire new world of possibilities.” ~ NSI student

Summer on the Brain at the Belin-Blank Center!

Enjoy taking challenging courses, connecting with interesting classmates, and learning from inspirational teachers! Programs are offered to students in grades 2-12.

DSC_0038Our elementary, non-residential program, Blast! is an academic commuter program for members of the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS). This program offers half-day classes at the University of Iowa and full-day classes in Ankeny (Des Moines area).

file_3008x2000_000471Middle school programs include the Blank Summer Institute (BSI), as well as the Junior Scholars Institute (JSI). BSI is a one-week residential summer program held at the University of Iowa for 120 of Iowa’s gifted students who are currently in grades 7 & 8. The Institute provides exceptionally talented students with an intensive and advanced educational experience designed to enhance their intellectual and social growth.  JSI is a one-week residential summer academic program held at the University of Iowa for students in grades 6-8. JSI consists of nine classes and students may nominate themselves for a single advanced level course for the entire week.

file_3008x2000_000638Belin-Blank high school programs include the National Scholars Institute (NSI) and the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP). Students who are currently (academic year 2014-2015) in grades 9-11 may nominate themselves for NSI and will take a single advanced level course for the entire week. Students who are currently in grades 10-11 may nominate themselves for SSTP, a five-week residential summer research program during which students conduct scientific research in University laboratories under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Students also produce a research project/paper as a part of the program.

Stop by for more details!

WINGS is Back!

DSC_0015Come join us this spring at the Belin-Blank Center for the Weekend Institute for Gifted Students (WINGS)! We will be holding two sessions; one on March 28th and the other on April 25th.

WINGS consists of half-day enrichment opportunities for elementary and junior high students (grades 2-8) that take place during the spring semester on The University of Iowa campus. Classes will be budding in science, art, math, writing, computer science, and social studies to cultivate students’ interest and enliven their curiosity!

Students are not required to participate in the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) to participate in WINGS; however, we encourage all students to participate in BESTS in order to learn more about readiness for academic challenge.

Morning classes will meet from 9:00–12:00 and afternoon classes will meet from 1:00–4:00. While students in grades 2–8 may register for both a morning class and an afternoon class, lunch supervision will not be provided between the morning and afternoon sessions. Classes are $65.

Registration for WINGS will open February 2, 2015. 

Visit for more information.

Nominations Now Accepted for the Blank Summer Institute (BSI)

Nominations are now being accepted for the Belin-Blank Center’s longest running program, the Blank Summer Institute (BSI).  Every middle school in Iowa is invited to nominate eight students, one in each of the classes offered in BSI.  Students may be nominated in:

  • Math Problem Solving
  • Advanced Science
  • Social Studies
  • Global and Cultural Studies
  • Performing Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Creative Writing
  • Invention and Innovation

We have extended the nomination deadline by one month so that teachers and schools have plenty of time to get their nominations in.  BSI is a fantastic program with a long standing history of great students, amazing teachers, awesome staff, and lots of fun!

Visit our website to learn more.


Meet Our Teachers: Taera Harman

HarmanMy name is Taera Harman and I was born in and raised in Iowa City, Iowa. My maternal grandfather was a professor of physiology at the University of Iowa. He was also a medical illustrator and a painter. My interest in drawing and painting began simply by watching him work in his studio.

I started to keep my own sketchbook and journal at the age of twelve. I keep a sketchbook and journal to this day.

The Traveler, Taera Harman (Artwork by Taera Harman Facebook page,

The Traveler, Taera Harman (Artwork by Taera Harman Facebook page)

Throughout junior high and high school I took every opportunity to travel abroad. Traveling has always been a great inspiration for me as it is for many artists. My personal painting style really began to develop during that time.

In 1991 I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and enrolled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I began as an illustration major, then I switched to fine arts with an emphasis on painting and drawing. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1995.

Since graduating I have continued to develop a large body of work including 30 paintings. I have been able to show my work in several shows and galleries around Iowa.

I have been fortunate to share my love of art with children. From 2004 to 2007 I designed the Montessori Summer of the Arts program.

In 2013 I began teaching Challenge Saturdays at the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa.

I enjoy working with children and watching them develop their own personal style of painting and drawing.

As an artist, it is so nice to see children still embracing the arts in this high-tech world.

Art is very subjective and I like to teach my students that if they are happy with their artwork that is all that matters.

How Do You Improve a Saturday?

Just add challenge! Challenge Saturdays is under way – here’s a little of what we’ve been up to (click on an image to see it larger):

Registration for Challenge Saturdays Is Open!

This fall you can make a rocket, create an invention, explore and expand your artistic talents, program a LEGO robot, study the craft of improv, join the maker movement, carry out a chemical reaction, program a computer game, or accelerate your math skills all at the Challenge Saturdays Program hosted by the Belin-Blank Center! The Belin-Blank Center will be offering exciting coursework in both Des Moines and Iowa City for students in grades 2—8. Over a series of five Saturdays students will have the opportunity to take a class that is geared to their interest. Whether that might be math, inventing, art, science, performing, or computer programming there is a class for them at Challenge Saturdays!

Iowa City classes will be held in the Blank Honors Center on the University of Iowa campus in downtown Iowa City. Iowa City classes will be held from 9:30-12:30 on September 20, September 27, October 18, October 25 and November 1.

Des Moines classes will be held at the Des Moines Central Academy. Des Moines classes will be held from 8:45–11:45 on September 20, October 4, October 18, November 8, and November 15.

Please visit for course descriptions and registration.

Registration for Challenge Saturdays Opens Monday!

This fall you can make a rocket, create an invention, explore and expand your artistic talents, program a LEGO robot, study the craft of improv, join the maker movement, carry out a chemical reaction, program a computer game, or accelerate your math skills all at the Challenge Saturdays Program hosted by the Belin-Blank Center!

The Belin-Blank Center will be offering exciting coursework in both Des Moines and Iowa City for students in grades 2­­–8. Over a series of five Saturdays students will have the opportunity to take a class that is geared to their interest. Whether that might be math, inventing, art, science, performing, or computer programming there is a class for them at Challenge Saturdays!

Iowa City classes will be held in the Blank Honors Center on the University of Iowa campus in downtown Iowa City. Iowa City classes will be held from 9:30-12:30 on September 20, September 27, October 18, October 25 and November 1.

Des Moines classes will be held at the Des Moines Central Academy. Des Moines classes will be held from 8:45–11:45 on September 20, October 4, October 18, November 8, and November 15.

Registration will open August 25th, when you can read each class description to find out which is the best fit for you! Please visit to register!

We hope to see you this fall at Challenge Saturdays!

Join Us for Challenge Saturdays This Fall!

As summer comes to an end, we are ready to fall into Challenge Saturdays at the Belin-Blank Center!

Blogpostphoto1This fall, Challenge Saturdays at the Blank Honors Center in Iowa City will be September 20th, September 27th, October 18th, October 25th and November 1st. The Iowa City location will offer classes in Math, Science, Art, and Inventiveness.



Blogpostphoto2 In Des Moines, math classes will be offered to students in grades 4–8 and dates will be announced shortly.




Class descriptions will be posted August 25!  Visit for more information.

It’s Not Paper Mache If It Doesn’t Get Everywhere

…which is why we always go outside to work on it!

Join Us In Honoring Student Artists and Writers

Join us tomorrow, April 5th, at the Iowa Art & Writing Region Recognition Ceremony!  This event, which honors winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, is open to the public, and writer (and Scholastic judge) Sarah Prineas will be there to sign books in the foyer of the Blank Honors Center (

  • Check-in: 9:15 AM-10:30 AM
  • Art & Writing Activities: 9:30 AM -10:30 AM
  • Ceremony: 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM




Wrap Up Your Day With Some Award-Winning Art

Congratulations to all the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners!  You can see the winners in art in the video below:

In Need of a Solution: Medical Care and Education in Gambia

Breonna Carroll is an Iowa Talent Project (ITP) student and is a photojournalism major and is also earning a Global Health Certificate. She recently finished her international requirements through the MHIRT program this summer and has been selected to present her photographic work and research at an art show in April. If you are interested in the environmental and health efforts in Africa, you won’t want to miss this event.

THE GAMBIA Artist Statement

As I sat scrunched in a rickety minivan traveling down an unmarked dirt road I saw the main Gambian dump site. For the first time in my life I silently watched as mothers, children and men scrupulously scavenged through plumes of smoke and refuse lumped together like mini volcanoes. All were diligently focused on finding a shiny reward of metal to turn into a pot, a spoon or tourist jewelry; anything that would turn into money. As a 20 year old African American who had never seen a dump site besides the one in Toy Story 3 I was completely baffled that an entire community was un-begrudgingly living with the suffocating stench of burning refuse. Why weren’t the people up in arms, pounding on their president’s door? I was sure I could rally a group of concerned citizens to flood the streets ready to clean. Not one thing was picked up.

Instead, for three months I listened. At the end the only thing that I had rallied together was the realization that in order for my concerns to be answered I must ask if they are the concerns of those whom they would most impact. It is not my job to tell people what they need, it is to help them see they have the capability to make a change.

The Gambian government has made major strides in providing its citizens with free or affordable healthcare. However, it is now time to focus on cleaning up the environment so that Gambian residents benefit fully from their government’s efforts. This is a brief visual documentation of the triumphs and shortcomings of a nation that deserves better. Through my lens I hope to tell the story of an emergent people who are strong and intelligent, but are also desperately in need of a solution.

Join Us at WINGS!

Be creative at the Belin-Blank Center’s Weekend Institute for Gifted Students on March 29!

Kick off National Poetry Month with a poetry class where you can compose an original poem for Poem in Your Pocket Day. Explore the craft of performing monologues with Maggie Conroy, the playwright and performer of one woman shows including Sailing into Iowa and The Short History of a Colonial Dame. Her play The Tag Sale Project was produced at Riverside Theatre and sold out!

Learn how to write monologues from Kate Aspengren, a playwright who has worked in theatre as an actor, a designer, a musician, a director, and a stage manager. A writer of fiction as well as plays, Kate’s middle-grade novel, Ashley Templeton is Ruining My Life, was published in 2012.

A Fresh Perspective on the Center

Congratulations to Mark Tade for submitting this photograph of the Blank Honors Center to the American Society of Media Photographers.  Challenge Saturdays

Mr. Tade’s photography greatly enhanced the Belin-Blank Center’s 25th anniversary book.

Awaken Your Creativity This Spring

Check out what we are offering as a part of our Weekend Institute for Gifted Students that will allow you to express yourself through painting, writing, and performing:

  • Receive painting instruction to create an expressionist painting on canvas
  • Write a monologue (for a zombie?)
  • Perform a monologue (as a zombie?)
  • Get ready for National Poetry Month by reading, writing, and sharing poems

These three-hour classes are designed to inspire your artistic talents.  Each class costs $65 and will be held on Saturday, March 29 at the Belin-Blank Center on the University of Iowa Campus.  Visit our website to learn more!

Kids Using Art to Support Reading

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As part of their classwork, Challenge Saturday students in The Artist’s Studio class created two collaborative canvas paintings, which they will donate to the Arts & Crafts Bazaar fundraiser for the Iowa City Public Library to support their Summer Reading Programs.

The Arts & Crafts Bazaar will be held from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday, December 7th in the Iowa City Public Library’s first floor Meeting Room A. More information can be found on the Iowa City Public Library website.

We are very proud of these students for engaging in community service in addition to their dedication to learning about artists, artistic techniques, and producing works of art.

25 Years of Inspiration and Art

The Belin-Blank Center has always valued art and creativity, and as part of our 25th anniversary, we are revisiting a few of our favorite pieces from our permanent and loaned collection.  Enjoy them in person at our 25th Anniversary Open House!

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Art in the Stairwell

If you follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook, you probably saw a few previews of some new artwork in what may seem like an unlikely place: our north stairwell.

The piece, which was created and installed by artist Bede Clarke, is titled Migration.

 Migration is an acknowledgment of the restlessness which is such an integral part of the human spirit.  It is a nod toward our process of “becoming” even when this movement occurs against a backdrop of struggle and confusion.  While our longing and searching can cause a good deal of friction within us, what can we do but embrace it – it is a part of who we are and it has a beauty all its own.  As with much art, Migration is autobiographical, always I feel I am becoming, becoming; dreaming of being.

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The Iowa Region Has Some Amazing Young Artists!

Click on a thumbnail below to see all Visual Arts Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mention winners for the 2013 Iowa Region Scholastic Art & Writing Awards!

Cranes Have Landed at the Center!

A new exhibit inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki has come to the Blank Honors Center.  Over a thousand paper cranes folded by Iowa students will be suspended from the second floor now through April 25th.

Join us at the reception for the project on April 6th from 10:30-noon, or stop by anytime to check out the cranes in person.

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The Folding Cranes, Sharing Stories exhibit is a collaboration between:

  • Timber Ridge Elementary of Johnston Community Schools; Emily Slatterly-Phillips
  • Durant Elementary of Durant Community Schools; Caitlin Alexander
  • City High School of Iowa City Community Schools; Susie Thurmond
  • Mt.Pleasant High School of Mt.Pleasant Community Schools; Leo Clark
  • Create, Imagine, Play & Human Development in the Arts of University of Iowa;
  • Tiffany Carr, Daniel Kinney, Elise Charles, Rebecca Bos