Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

Courtesy of Gaelynn Lea

In March a singer, songwriter, and fiddler from Duluth, Minnesota won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. Now, Gaelynn Lea is embarking on her first solo tour and bringing her music to Iowa.

ASK Studio

An area of north Des Moines that holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many central Iowans is being remade into a site where future generations can build memories.

Riverview Park sat on an island near the Des Moines River and operated from 1915 until 1978.

Plans are now in place to convert it into an outdoor concert venue large enough for 10,000 people.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation Director Ben Page says in designing the project, it was important to celebrate the future while honoring the past.

Courtesy of Asphate

Paintings, symphonies, and sculptures have long been considered art forms, but the last century has given way to newer forms of expression that many consider to be artistic.

"Art is something that captures a lot of what we all agree upon is important or beautiful, but what makes it art is something that takes it into that realm of someone's imagination," says Todd Behrens, curator of the Sioux City Art Museum.

The act of creating is a powerful one, but you don't have to be a professional artist to tap into that power.  On this "Iowa Week" program about the arts in Iowa, we talk to a number of Iowans about art in their communities, from theater to community bands to the visual arts. 

MCAD Library

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on architecture in Iowa. He’s joined by Iowa State University College of Design associate professors Dan Naegele and Cameron Campbell. They explain how building design in Iowa has changed over the decades, what is says about us, and the art of the field.

Michael Leland / Iowa Public Radio

Humans have been making monuments and memorializing events, people, and tragedies for a long time. Do we think about memorials different today than we used to? 

According to David Schmitz, who is Executive Director with the Dubuque Museum of Art, the answer is yes.  Schmidtz has worked cataloging memorials and monuments in the state. 

When you think of the state of Iowa, you might not initially find yourself thinking about its music scene or rich musical culture. But there is a growing diversity of sound in the state and a “special sauce” that makes the music that’s made here unique.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dave Zollo, Iowa City based artist and founder of Trailer Records; Luke Tweedy, owner of Flat Black Studios and Tim Hankewich of Orchestra Iowa about music in Iowa.

Katherine Perkins/IPR

Just off of 2nd Avenue in Cedar Rapids sits an unassuming little carriage house. In a tiny studio apartment that used to be the hayloft, is where the most iconic American painting was created. Artist Grant Wood lived as well as worked in the space from 1924 - 1935, and he created all of his masterpieces there, including "American Gothic," "Young Corn," and "Woman with Plants."

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe toured the studio with Katherine Kunau, associate curator of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

Katherine Perkins/IPR

2016 is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Iowa's best-known artist, Grant Wood. To mark the occasion, Go Cedar Rapids, the city's tourism and visitors bureau created "overalls all over." The group commissioned local artists to decorate 25 life-sized, 6-foot fiberglass statues depicting the farmer and daughter from the American Gothic painting. The statues were on display throughout the city this summer, and IPR's Katherine Perkins hunted down a few of them for this slide show.

Rob Dillard

A group of artists are part of an exhibit at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. What sets the Living Proof Exhibit apart from other displays is how the work has helped these artists through some dark days. 

You might call the collection of more than 60 pieces of art at the Figge a smorgasbord exhibit. It includes everything from fiber art, such as sewing and knitting and a quilt, to painting, encaustics and photography, the more traditional forms of art.

There is one thing, however, that ties all of this work together.

Anna Williams / Iowa Public Radio

Four hundred years after his death in 1616, the plays of William Shakespeare are still performed around the world. With 410 feature-length films and numerous TV retellings of his work, Shakespeare is recognized as the most filmed author of all time and has writing credits on 1100 films. 

None of this would have been possible without one book: the First Folio, which is a collection of Shakespeare's plays that was published in 1623. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

From the time it opened in 1972, Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus was one of the premier performance spaces in Iowa. That all changed with the historic flooding of Eastern Iowa in 2008 when the auditorium was flooded beyond repair.

Executive Director Chuck Swanson says he remembers the flooding being surreal.  

courtesy Des Moines Register

"This is a great article, just don't read the comment section" is a warning and rebuke sent in emails and attached to links throughout the Internet. But when news organizations like NPR and the Quad City Times decide to shut their comment sections down, an outcry claiming the loss of the Internet's public square usually follows. Racheal Ruble, Lecturer in the Communication Studies Program at Iowa State University, says the need to comment online comes, oddly enough, from a sense of community.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

After more than 10 years, Sean Moeller is leaving Daytrotter. He says it seems like the right time, and he’s ready for a new project. During this Talk of Iowa interview, he talks with host Charity Nebbe about why he’s moving on, what he’s built, and how Daytrotter began.

John Pemble / IPR

A new work of art about the bond between horses and humans is at the Iowa State Fair in the century-old horse barn. Most of the 400 stalls are occupied by horses waiting for competitions, some with their human companions camping next to them, providing company and care.  At stall 406 is something different: a white fiberglass horse head hanging on a wooden mount illuminated by several work lights.


John Pemble / IPR

The 2016 Iowa State Fair got underway this morning with an opening ceremony at the newly-renovated Oman Family Youth Inn building.  It’s one of many fair facilities that’s been upgraded in recent years with funding from the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  Fair manager Gary Slater says since the foundation was formed 23 years ago, it has raised $125 million.

"We have completed many renovation projects, many new construction projects, that obviously would not have been possible without this public-private partnership that we have," says Slater.

Deb Herbold

Starting today artist Rose Frantzen will be live painting 20 Iowans, two each day of the Iowa State Fair in the Varied Industries Building as part of Iowa State University’s “Your Beautiful Adventure” project.

Horticulture Day Celebrates 30 years

Aug 3, 2016
Michael Leland

Iowa Public Radio’s Horticulture Day call-in show on Talk of Iowa turned 30 this year and to celebrate, staff and show host Charity Nebbe marked the milestone with a live show and family field day in Ames at the ISU Horticulture Research Station on Saturday, July 30. Four hundred IPR listeners and members attended the event.

Show favorites ISU Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron and ISU Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis as well as other members of the Hort Gang joined Nebbe on the panel to discuss lawn and gardening and share favorite stories from the past 30 years. 

John Pemble / IPR

Portraits are often a visual experience with a photograph or painting, but Alex Braidwood created a portrait of Des Moines exclusively with sound. His project was commissioned by the Des Moines Art Center as part of its annual “Iowa Artists” spotlight.

Music lovers of Iowa unite! Iowa has a growing summer music festival scene. To get a handle on the happenings, we've compiled this handy guide. If you see something missing, tweet us @IPRStudioOne. TO learn more about these festivals, and to hear interviews with many of the organizers, check out The B-Side, IPR's music blog. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A piece of public art is now maneuvering along the streets of Des Moines. Iowa Public Radio’s Rob Dillard tells us for the fourth time a DART bus has become a rolling canvas.

The opening day of the Des Moines Art Festival provided the stage for the unveiling of a work called “Where’s the Ball?” It’s the creation of local artist Larassa Kabel and features depictions of her two dogs. She says it’s the first time she’s used a city bus as a medium.

“It kind of represents what art is, which is a gift artists give that nobody asked for,” she says.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

Supporters of the arts and city leaders in Des Moines are unveiling plans for a walking tour of public installations in the downtown area. 

The Art Route will pass by 87 pieces of art and stretch 6.6 miles from the west end of downtown to the State Capitol.

The chief communications officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Tiffany Tauscheck, calls the Art Route one-of-a-kind in the nation.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

On starry summer nights in rural Maquoketa in Northeastern Iowa, you can hear the sounds of bands like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Norah Jones and Conor Oberst wafting from inside an old implement barn built in the 1950s. The barn sits next to an original farmstead house turned art gallery that has been in Tiffany Biehl’s family for more than 150 years.

Cthulhu Steev / Flickr

Most obituaries are short biographies, meant to inform others of a loss. Sometimes they express sadness, or celebrate accomplishments. Ideally, they capture the essence of the person they're about.

"Wherever Cynthia was, she was probably the smartest person in the room. She could curse like a sailor-though she almost never did - yet she had exquisite and sophisticated tastes." That’s a line from Jennifer Miller's beautiful, smart, funny remembrance of her mother.

Sioux Falls Argus-Leader

Paula Poundstone loves Iowa--she must, she's performing here again!  On this segment of Talk of Iowa, Charity speaks to the venerated comedian, who is returning to Iowa City for a show at the Englert Theatre on June 10. 

Photo by John Pemble

Des Moines artist Max Jury is living in London for most of this year promoting and touring his debut eponymous album that just came out.  Jury started recording music when he was in high school and pursued it further by attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston.


While he was in school, demo recordings of his music caught the attention of the label Marathon Artists in London, England.  They offered him a publishing contract.  Jury says he had every intention of graduating from college.


Old feed mills no longer in operation often sit vacant, but that’s not so for one old mill in Ames. A group of artists and entrepreneurs are planning to transform a building that formerly served as a Doboy feed mill and warehouse into an art gallery, workshop space and coffee shop.

“The person who previously owned it had an auto shop in the warehouse,” explains co-founder Lyndsay Nissen. “When it went on the market, we had to jump on it.”

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

An eastern Iowa town of 2,800 people is investing in its future by reviving the past.

Wilton was recently awarded a $500,000 federal grant to restore its downtown.

That's money it plans to match through tax increment financing and funds from local businesses. 

Becky Allgood of the Wilton Development Corporation says she hopes that renovating the facades of 18 downtown buildings to their original 19th century aesthetic will draw new businesses to the community. Soon, structures will display features like original brickwork and iron columns. 

Courtes of RunDSM

Last week, the city of Des Moines made headlines by painting over a mural created by area teens after it was reported as graffiti.  RunDSM, the program that curates the project, has reached an agreement with the city to re-paint the art and expedite the permit needed to ensure the mural isn’t mistaken for vandalism again.

Emily Lang, co-founder of RunDSM, says she's working with the city to obtain more space for student art moving forward. 

ACE Foundation / Flickr

The University of Northern Iowa's Jazz Hall of Fame has a new inductee - Roger Maxwell. Maxwell is a talented trombone player, in addition to a teacher and composer. He's also a trailblazer and advocate for the African-American community in Iowa. 

During his childhood in Marshalltown, segregation was very real. He couldn't go to the pool, except for a two hour period on Sunday mornings, and blacks weren't allowed to stay in local hotels. 

"We just accepted the conditions. We knew where we could not go, and we just accepted that," he says.