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Mainframe Studios Selects Julia Franklin as Executive Director


DES MOINES, Iowa (November 6, 2023) — Mainframe Studios, a financially self-sustaining nonprofit providing affordable workspaces to advance equity and opportunities in the arts, has selected Julia Franklin as its new Executive Director. An accomplished artist, leader, professor, and founder of multiple community arts programs, Franklin brings the organization more than two decades of experience around creative sector advocacy, non-profit management, and community, program, and funding development.


Franklin was selected following a five-month executive search conducted by Arts Consulting Group, a leading arts and culture consulting firm in North America.  

“We are fortunate to have extraordinary talent in our own backyard,” said Justin Mandelbaum, founder of Mainframe Studios. “We interviewed candidates from coast to coast and culturally-rich cities from around the country. Many were amazed at what we have created here, and all had impressive credentials, but it was Julia who had everything we wished for and more. She’s a passionate advocate for the arts, strategically creative, and committed to elevating Mainframe Studios as a local arts asset. No doubt, the best is yet to come for our 200+ artists and the economic and cultural impact we believe is possible for our region.” 

“I am honored to be the next Executive Director of Mainframe Studios and have been fortunate to have my own creative space there since 2018,” shared Julia Franklin. “It’s a magical place of experimentation, transformation, and inspiration for so many and where I’ve found a community of support and acceptance. I’m excited to cultivate these opportunities for others and to showcase the power of the arts to spark curiosity, start conversations, and address community issues.”

Franklin will be joining Mainframe Studios, the nation’s largest nonprofit art studio building, December 1st. She is currently the Community Investment Specialist at Bravo Greater Des Moines, where she manages a $4M Annual Operating Grant Program that invests in 85+ arts and culture nonprofits.

Franklin is also an educator who has taught Studio Art, Critical Thinking, and Creativity and Innovation at Graceland University and was instrumental in the construction and operations of The Helene Center for the Visual Arts. She also created inclusive and accessible gallery programming during the pandemic at Drake University, where she was the Anderson Gallery Exhibitions and Community Engagement Manager. 

She currently teaches Art Appreciation at Des Moines Area Community College. She serves as Board President for Friends of Drake Arts and is an Advisory Committee Member for the Print Club at the Des Moines Art Center.  

She is described as a “creator, connector, and collaborator” — launching programs to champion the arts in rural Iowa; coordinating and co-writing a grant to fund a public arts project that will educate users about water quality, river systems, and care for the environment; and creating proposals approved by local communities to expand art into bike trails and public space. 

Franklin is an Iowa Artist Fellow and holds a Master of Fine Arts from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. 

Contact: To schedule an interview with Justin Mandelbaum and/or Julia Franklin please contact Katelyn Stessman via katelyn@mainframestudios.org or text or call (515) 216-0124.  
Visuals: Professional headshots of Julia Franklin are attached. Please let Katelyn know if you would like any other images related to Mainframe Studios, its artists or programming and events. 
Opened in 2017, Mainframe Studios is a financially self-sustaining nonprofit and cultural hub in downtown Des Moines created to provide affordable workspaces to artists and community programming that is ambitious, inclusive, collaborative, and inspiring. Today its 160,000-square foot colorful and iconic building includes 180 modern studios serving more than 200 artists, creators, and cultural workers. There is also space and programming dedicated to events, artist-led workshops, school tours, the popular “First Friday” themed open studios events, public exhibition areas, and more, attracting over 8,000 users monthly. This unique local arts ecosystem is the largest nonprofit art studio building in the nation and was envisioned and created by board president and founder, Justin Mandelbaum. 

To learn more, please visit www.mainframestudios.org. And to learn more about Julia Franklin, please visit www.juliafranklinart.com.

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