Three Winners: Iowa Scholarship for the Arts

As Iowa’s high school seniors make their final steps toward graduation, three of them are getting a leg up on college with scholarships from the Iowa Arts Council.

From left to right: Matt Harris, Mary Cownie, Ajla Dizdarević, Shana Liu, Katelyn Brockmeyer and Governor Terry Branstad.

Katelyn Brockmeyer of Spirit Lake High School, Ajla Dizdarević of Waterloo West High School, and Shana Liu of Des Moines Roosevelt High School and Central Academy are this year’s Iowa Scholarship for the Arts winners and will receive $1,500 each toward college tuition and related expenses next year.

Katelyn will study art history at the University of Northern Iowa, Ajla will study English and creative writing at the University of Iowa and Shana will study piano performance and biomedical science at Luther College.

We sat down with them at the State Capitol after their awards ceremony with Gov. Terry Branstad to talk about their interests in the arts and their plans for the future:

Q: How did you get interested in the arts?

Katelyn: My grandmother had me involved from the time I was little, and I always loved doing art projects in school. I found a real passion for arts in high school when I started working at an art center. That’s where I found my love for art.

Ajla: My dad used to read books to me when I was younger. It helped me be fluent in English, and I decided to write and I really liked it.

Shana: Both of my older sisters played violin and piano from a really young age. So I grew up listening to music from the day I was born. I wanted to be just like them, so I started piano as well.

Q: What was your first influential art experience?

Katelyn: I did a lot of painting with my grandmother. She was always painting birds on barn quilts, and she was always painting rocks with me when I was very young. I would doodle during school, and one of my doodles on a piece of notebook paper in second or third grade made it into our art show.

Ajla: I published three books of poetry. After the first one I knew right away (that I was interested in writing). I was 11 years old, maybe 5th or 6th grade. It was a collection of poems.

Shana: The first one I remember was my first competition, which was really nerve-wracking. But I had a lot of fun so that was a good sign for the future.

Q. Who helped you pursue the arts and why?

Katelyn: I credit my grandmother. She really got me started at a young age and helped me pursue it, and my parents as well. They’ve always pushed me to dive into it and get better at it. My teacher, Brad Travis — he has prepared me for UNI throughout high school.

Ajla: My family, my parents and my teachers from middle school, Donavan Oberheu and Jon Dennis, and my English teacher from high school, Heather Wagner.

Shana: I study at Wartburg, and the drive is two and a half hours long. My mom, especially, has driven me there the past six years. And my teachers are so amazing, and they’re like my second set of parents. They’re Dr. [Ted] Reuter at Wartburg and Dr. [Mei-Hsuan] Huang at Iowa State. I just really love them, and they’re really great.

Q: What are you most looking forward to when you go to college?

Katelyn: I’m looking forward to all the different art mediums I’ll have access to in college that I never had in high school — and getting involved in things and studying abroad. I went to Italy this past summer, and I hope to go back or to Paris. Anywhere with amazing art museums all around the world, I hope to study abroad and spend some time there.

Ajla: To meet other writers and improve my writing.

Shana: I’m a musician but I really want to go into my science degree. I’m going to be pre-med, so I’m really looking forward to the different research opportunities I’ll have. And I hope that, maybe, I’ll be able to combine music and pre-med research somehow.

Q. What do you want to do after college?

Katelyn: I hope to work at an art center or an art museum as a visual arts director, planning and hanging the shows that will come in and planning events for the public.

Ajla: I’d like to be a civil rights attorney and work for the ACLU.

Shana: I want to go medical school and study interventional radiology.

More information about the annual Iowa Scholarship for the Arts and how to apply is available on our website. The deadline is February 1.

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