Behind the Scenes at ICON

Our Mission

Our Mission

To provide students with a safe, interdisciplinary, and holistic arts education with a focus on designing a path specific to each learner’s personal artistic goals.

Our Vision

Our Vision

Building better artists. Building better humans.

Our Mission

To provide students with a safe, interdisciplinary, and holistic arts education with a focus on designing a path specific to each learner’s personal artistic goals.

Our Vision

Building better artists. Building better humans.

Our Core Values


At ICON, our first priority is developing a community of caring human beings. This means giving attention to all aspects of ourselves and others in our community: body, mind, and heart. To be caring requires a mindful approach. We make time, we listen, and we engage with one another with respect and integrity. We allow space for reflection and remember that every day is a new day.

Approaching our work together with care sets the stage for healthy collaborations and reminds us we are supported by our fellow community members.


As artists, we are most often engaged in creative practices. Within creativity there are new insights, pathways, and perspectives to be found. This is a core value at ICON, as we believe innovation is what propels us forward in our growth as artists. We may be reimagining something that has been done before, developing something entirely new, or refreshing strategies for problem-solving. Sometimes an unexpected outcome –maybe even something that feels like a failure–can bring about an exciting shift in our awareness and expression.


Part of our journey as artists and humans is developing resilience. We know that at times we all face difficulties. This is a part of life.

At ICON, we work through all kinds of challenges together, as collaborators in the arts, as friends, as colleagues, and as responsible citizens. Remaining steadfast in our commitments helps us to maintain academic rigor, reach our educational goals and develop our artistry.

Arts Education

ICON offers an in-person, intensive arts education for young people ages 14-19, with a Project-Based Learning approach. Program offerings are designed to complement each student's academic course of study.

Learn more about Project-Based Learning here

At ICON we offer 3 programs:

ICON Full Day students are offered an extensive arts education, which includes 25+ hours weekly of private and small group coaching sessions and coursework in the arts with our world-renowned faculty.  Academic courses are completed in the state-accredited online learning program through the celebrated Iowa City Community School District.  While students can choose to major in dance, theatre arts, music, visual arts, or design & production, they also practice their craft in an interdisciplinary, project-based learning setting, collaborating with other artists to build real-world experience.  Upon graduation, ICON Full Day students receive a high school diploma from ICCSD and a high school Certificate of Performing and Visual Arts Industry Fundamentals with Arts Area Specialization from ICON.  

Continue to explore your passion with ICON’s Gap Year Experience!  The ICON Gap Year Program is designed for students looking to spend more time preparing to make the next step in their post-secondary educational journey.  ICON’s expert arts faculty works closely with Gap Year students to achieve their dreams, whether that means preparing for college auditions or placement in professional companies. Students may elect to pair ICON’s arts education with college courses of their choosing or concentrate solely on building their artistic portfolio.  Upon completion of two semesters of ICON Gap Year programming, students receive a Gap Year Certificate of Performing and Visual Arts Industry Fundamentals with an Arts Area Specialization. 

ICON Half Day students are offered a comprehensive arts education, which includes 16+ hours weekly of arts curriculum provided by our expert faculty of artist-teachers. This program is a great fit for students desiring to remain in their home school setting* but need a more intensive arts education to complement their studies.  ICON Half Day students head to the ICON campus each afternoon to be immersed in arts experiences, along with ICON Full Day and ICON Gap Year students.  Students are placed in classes based on interest, skill level, and experience.  They can hone their craft in the areas of dance, theatre arts, music, visual arts, or design & production.  Opportunities are built into each week for interdisciplinary, project-based encounters with peers that build real-world arts experience.  ICON Half Day students enrolled for more than two years receive a Certificate of Completion in Performing and Visual Arts Industry Fundamentals from ICON.

*Open enrollment into the Iowa City Community School district with a dual-enrollment option (a combination of in-person and asynchronous academic coursework) is available for ICON Half Day students, with ICON on-campus learning coaches providing support for online/asynch courses.

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.

ICON is committed to creating a safe, responsive, and supportive environment in which there is equal opportunity for all students and all staff.

It is our policy that no one shall be treated differently, separately, or have any action directly affecting them taken on the basis of race, religion, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, age, or disability where a person is otherwise qualified or could be with reasonable accommodation.

Members of the school community are expected to treat each other with respect. Teachers and other staff members are expected to teach and to demonstrate by example that all members of the community are entitled to respect.

Harassment of a student by another student or by a teacher or other staff member is a violation of school policy. This includes (but is not limited to) harassment based on race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, socioeconomic status, or disability. Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that also violates school policy.

ICON does not tolerate conduct (including verbal or sexual) that interferes with students’ educational benefits, opportunities, performance, and physical and psychological well-being, that creates (or will certainly create) a hostile learning environment or that is threatening or seriously intimidating.

Health & Wellness

The physical and emotional health and safety of our students is a top priority at ICON. Our commitment to caring for each student-artist does not stop at arts education and academic support; we know that in order to learn and grow, personal health must be flourishing and all students must be safe. There are multiple on-site supports for our students:

  • Our Student Life Director attends to each student’s quality of life inside and out of the classroom, leading a team of school counselors, live-in student residential assistants, and on-site support staff in the mental health field.
  • Our Student Life Team is in weekly contact with every student to ensure their well-being as they navigate the high school experience, helping students balance schoolwork, arts projects, and self-care.
  • Licensed psychologists and social workers are available for “drop-in” appointments onsite for students that may need additional support.
  • Our Crisis Team is trained on best practices and school safety plans and procedures to assist in case of emergency (weather, medical, etc.).

If students or families indicate a need for further support, we provide families with a curated list of medical and mental health referrals in the Iowa City area. The University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics is a world class institution with doctors at the top of their field.

Creators of ICON

Leslie Nolte

Head of School & Artistic Director

Beth Brown

Curriculum & Instruction Director

An Arts High School in Iowa City

World-class literature, education, and healthcare are all at the root of Iowa City’s status as one of the best places to live in America, and the arts scene is what makes this town bloom in every season.

According to, Iowa City packs a ton of cultural and recreational opportunities within a safe, caring town for the education and arts.

Iowa City systematically provides diverse, gifted artists from around the world ample opportunities to engage schools, venues, audiences, and souls with what they create. Tradition blends with innovation and the inspiring mentor the aspiring. Farmers’ markets, vibrant murals, and downtown festivals all thrive in Iowa City because of intention. The canvas is ever-changing, but the commitment to growth and creativity endures.

The Greatest Small City for the Arts
Downtown Iowa City
University of Iowa
University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics

Campus & Accommodations

Students have the option to commute daily to ICON from their home or live on campus in apartment-style co-op living within three blocks of the school. All boarding students have full-time live-in residential assistants (RAs), with low RA-to-student ratios.

ICON Stages With:

Tuition & Fees 2023-2024

Invest in your high school experience so you don’t have to pay for college!

Tuition COST*

*Tuition payment plan options available upon request.

Additional Fees (Not Included IN Tuition):

Annual Registration $350

Academic Fee ICCSD OLP

Out of State Residents $7,635*

Iowa Residents $0

Boarding:  $575  + utilities monthly (3-bedroom apartments)

Meals: Students bring their own lunch to campus, and boarding students cook at home in the care of residential assistants.  Additionally, there is a student  lounge with refrigerator and microwave available in the school building. 

*Out-of-state academic fees outlined here.

About Leslie Nolte

Leslie Nolte is a celebrated and seasoned visionary in the realm of performance arts and arts education. Through many avenues, she has enriched the arts community in which she lives. Most notably, Leslie is the founder of The James Theater, a dynamic and accessible performance and event space; a producer and artistic director of many varied productions and ventures from The Nutcracker to Newsies; an award-winning choreographer with numerous professional accolades; an investor in several theatrical productions including the Tony-Winning Broadway musical The Cher Show; an accomplished business leader; and a teacher by trade and by heart.

Under her direction as founder and artistic director, Nolte Academy has grown from a one-woman dance studio to a premiere arts program with 25 specialized instructors and more than 1,000 students. Now in its 23rd year, Nolte Academy’s breadth of instruction spans from dance (ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, tap, acro) to Pilates to visual and theatre arts classes. Nolte Academy students are taught precise technique and have opportunities to share space with professional choreographers, master teachers and numerous guest artists.

With a focus on high-quality productions, students also have opportunities to grow and learn on stage. While studying with Leslie and faculty, students have participated in varied professional opportunities, such as New York Fashion Week and Austin Dance Festival. Numerous Nolte Academy alumni have gone on to immerse themselves in professional programs, including The Juilliard School, Martha Graham Dance Company, the School of American Ballet, Radio City Rockettes, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Ballet West, Houston Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Florida State University and Point Park University.

Leslie has founded many performance opportunities including: Open Doors Dance Festival, a summer dance intensive which brings world-class performing artists and instructors to engage and perform with her students; Youth Rising, a spoken word/dance co-production; DanceWorks, a production of classical ballet repertoire and original works; Performing Arts Preschool, an innovative on-site arts-immersive preschool educated scores of children during its nearly 10 year duration.

Beyond her studio work, Leslie brings workshop dance instruction to area schools as part of Kennedy Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program, helping to guarantee access and equity to the arts for all students. Leslie has also been a guest lecturer at The University of Iowa Tippie College of Business and was the 2019 recipient of the Larry Eckholt Award recognizing her commitment to Iowa’s Corridor arts and culture community.

About Beth Brown

Beth is an arts educator and educational psychologist. Her first love is working with children, and she has been designing programming for youth ages 3-18 for the past thirty years. Most notably, she has written curriculum and taught music for over two decades in the Iowa City Community School District from pre-k to high school. She has also directed the Iowa City Youth Choir and the Nolte Nutcracker Chorus for over ten years. Early on in her career she garnered a strong foundation in educational and recreational leadership: guiding, caring for, and building an outdoor leadership training program for high school overnight campers at YMCA Camp Wapsie, working there for nearly a decade. She has a BM in Vocal Performance and Music Education and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on developmental science.

Beth began her partnership with Leslie Nolte over ten years ago when they opened a successful early childhood performing arts school together. Most recently, Beth has supported Nolte Academy in the role of Curriculum and Personnel Director, working with Leslie’s 30-plus arts faculty in a variety of arts education programs.

Beth is also an adjunct professor in the University of Iowa College of Education, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in instructional design, cognitive learning theories, and human development. She enjoys working with both inservice and preservice teachers in a variety of capacities, including mentoring, teaching, writing, and presenting in the arts education field.

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