Performing arts boarding high school opens in Iowa City

Beth Brown and Leslie Nolte are co-founders of ICON Arts Academy in Iowa City.
Beth Brown and Leslie Nolte are co-founders of ICON Arts Academy in Iowa City. CREDIT ICON ARTS ACADEMY

Auditions will be held January and February 2023 at ICON Arts Academy, a new performing arts boarding high school in downtown Iowa City looking to welcome its first class of students.

The school offers students aged 14-19 the chance to devote 20 hours to art education weekly, in addition to completing online academic courses from the Iowa City Community School District.

ICON offers studies in classical and contemporary dance, vocal/percussive music and composition, theater, and design and production, according to its website. Students will take core art classes and electives to round out their education.

Live auditions for the first class of ICON students in January will take place in New York City, St. Louis, Chicago, Austin, Winston-Salem, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines, and Iowa City.

The academy was founded by Leslie Nolte, executive director and artistic director, and Beth Brown, curriculum and instruction director. It is the only school of its kind in Iowa and surrounding states.

“Our world sometimes feels like it’s going in a direction that feels a little black and white, a little automated,” said Ms. Nolte in a video. “The one thing that will keep life awesome and amazing is what happens when creative people get together. There has to be something different for those looking to do their education the way in which they get to shape it.”

Tuition payment plans will begin in January, with the cost to enroll totaling approximately $22,000 for out-of-state residents.

“We are starting with some really innovative instruction and design,” said Ms. Brown. “It’s something other people haven’t done and that gives us a lot of advantages. The things we know about adolescent brain, the things we know about how students learn best, we can really apply those things in our setting.”

Students have the option to commute from home or live within three blocks of the school in apartment-style co-op living. All boarding students will have chaperones.

Earlier this year, Ms. Nolte and her husband Mark opened James Theater, at the home of the former Riverside Theatre.