Age 31 | Division administrator, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Growing up, Matthew Harris was very involved with music. He sang in chorus and in the University of Northern Iowa’s men’s glee club, which performed at the Vatican his final year of college.

“You can’t help but just be in awe of that space,” he said of the papal city.

However, it wasn’t until Harris interned at UNI’s Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center that he realized he could turn his passion for arts and culture into a career. His first job out of college was for the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, now Des Moines Performing Arts, where he worked as the development coordinator, working with corporate and individual donors.

“(President and CEO) Jeff Chelesvig was my first and only job interview,” he said. “I’m very grateful to him.”

He left in 2011 to lead the Iowa Arts Council, part of Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The state arts council supports the arts by awarding $1.6 million in grants each year to communities, organizations, artists and educational programming, he said.

“Matt is continually professional, consistently a consensus builder and constantly a listener,” wrote Mary Cownie, director of the Department of Cultural Affairs. “I know ... few people who are as genuine as Matt and few leaders who always strive to do the right thing and make the right decisions.”

Harris, who is originally from Cedar Falls, said Greater Des Moines is lucky to be so rich in its cultural offerings.

“For a city our size, we almost have one of everything,” he said.

“While I was at the Civic Center I was able to watch our organization evolve from saying ‘Wow, we landed this huge show’ to saying “Why wouldn’t we land it?’”


Five reasons he’s a 40:

• Oversees Arts Council grant-making and funding priorities for six grant programs that support state and local art initiatives.

• Member of the board of directors of Arts Midwest, a regional arts organization.

• Board member and chairman of the youth engagement advisory committee for Character Counts in Iowa.

• Member of the board of directors of Les Hale Endowment Fund, which benefits the University of Northern Iowa’s men’s glee club.

• Member of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute 2009 class.

Mentor: Todd Fogdall, director of development, Des Moines Performing Arts

Fun fact: Harris got engaged last spring in New York City’s Time Square. He and his partner, Adam Fanning, will be getting married this fall.


Presenting the 2013 winners:

Desmund Adams, Principal, AdamsDouglas
Lindsay Alderman, Client operations manager, LightEdge Solutions Inc.
Erica Axiotis, Director of development, Mercy Foundation
Kate Banasiak, President and CEO, Diversified Management Services Inc.
Erin Beamis, Senior vice president of logistics and operations, IronWorks
Jonathan Brendemuehl, Marketing events coordinator, Bankers Trust Co.
Curtis Brown, Economic development director, city of Ankeny
Matt Connolly, President, Generation Green Builders Co.
Lawrence Cunningham, Director of business development, Catchfire Media LLC
Angela Dethlefs-Trettin, Director of community investment and initiatives, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
Josh Fleming, Digital strategy director, Lessing-Flynn Advertising Co.
Felix Gallagher, Principal, PharmServ Solutions
Lori Gelhaar, Director of career services/ corporate relations, Kaplan University
Tina Gray Carstensen, Marketing coordinator, Shive-Hattery Inc.
Shane Greenleaf, Vice president/commercial banker, First American Bank
Danielle Haindfield, Shareholder attorney, Ahlers & Cooney P.C.
Emily Harris, Patent attorney and shareholder at Davis Brown Law Firm
Matthew Harris, Division administrator, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Angela Hilbert, Sales and marketing director, Deerfield Retirement Community
Joey Hinke, President, Miller, Fidler & Hinke Insurance Agency Inc.
Hannah Inman, Director of communications, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Keegan Kautzky, Director of national education programs, The World Food Prize Foundationn
John Lozier, Pediatric interventional cardiologist, Pediatric Cardiology P.C.
Dennis McDaniel, Police chief, Windsor Heights
Rachel McLean, Vice president/consultant, Ruan Cos
John Mickelson, Associate managing director, The PrivateBank & Trust Co.
Keith Olson, Commercial associate, NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.
Matt Ostanik, President, Submittal Exchange LLC
Benjamin Page, Director, Des Moines park and recreation
Dustin Peterson, Partner, McGladrey LLP
Nick Renkoski, Director of marketing and communications, Des Moines Metro Opera
Rachel Rowley, Partner, BrownWinick PLC
John Ruan IV, Vice president, financial institutions, Bankers Trust Co.
Jennifer Soma, Business lead, IDI Actuarial and Product Development Group, Principal Financial Group Inc.
Heather Starr, Real estate agent, RE/MAX Innovations
Aimee Staudt, Director of development, Knapp Properties Inc.
Courtney Strutt Todd, Shareholder attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm
Nikki Sylverson, Event Director, Des Moines Wine Festival Foundation
Howard Tempero, Experience design strategist, Spindustry Digital
Tony Timm, Executive director, Central Iowa Shelter & Services