John Pemble

Arts and Culture Reporter

John Pemble is the Arts and Culture reporter at Iowa Public Radio. In 1989, John began his Iowa Public Radio career in Fort Dodge as a program host for jazz, classical, and contemporary instrumental music programs. He joined Iowa Public Radio’s news department in 2008 to produce arts and culture stories.

John spent ten years as an adjunct professor for Iowa Central Community College’s broadcasting department teaching production and operations classes.

John's favorite public radio program is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

Ways to Connect

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.

 

John Pemble

A new art exhibit with works by troubled teens about social justice issues is now in a downtown Des Moines gallery. The effort is organized by ArtForce Iowa, a non-profit group working with teens going through the court system.  The centerpiece was created this spring in a classroom at the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center.  

Photo by John Pemble

For 20 years, the Red Cedar Chamber Music ensemble has been led by a husband and wife dedicated to performing classical music they commissioned in rural venues like the community center in Central City.  This is a town with less than 2,000  people near Cedar Rapids. On a Friday night, 50 people are listening to Red Cedar perform a new piece by Stephen Cohn titled “Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight.”  

 

Photo by Kyle Munson

One of the Iowa's most generous philanthropists has died at the age of 79.  Richard Jacobson grew up in Belmond. He died today at his home in Florida.

Jacobson used the wealth he built as owner of a Des Moines-based shipping company to support many causes in the areas of health care, education and the Iowa State Fair.  His large gifts include $15 million to the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Education and $100 million to the Mayo Clinic, the largest gift Mayo has ever received from a single donor.

Joyce Russell, Sarah Boden, Amy Mayer/IPR

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nomination, while the Democratic race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was considered neck-and-neck early this morning.

In a speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz thanked Iowa Republicans while also referencing scripture, Reagan Democrats, and what he calls “courageous conservatives”.

Photo by John Pemble

Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in third in the Republican Iowa Caucuses last night, one percent point away from second place finisher Donald Trump. During a speech to his supporters in downtown Des Moines Rubio said, he is grateful to Iowans.

“You believed in me when others didn’t think this night would be possible, when perhaps you were lost in the daily narrative, when some suggested that perhaps it was time to step aside.  You believed in me.”

Still rendered by Josh Larson

In 2010, Colorado video game developer Ryan Green's one year old son was diagnosed with cancer. To cope with what eventually became a four year struggle with the disease, he channeled his creative energy into an interactive project about what it’s like for his family to be in this situation.  This was around the time he met Des Moines game developer Josh Larson. Larson says they quickly realized they had a shared vision of what video games could be.

Photo by John Pemble.

Fifty years ago this week, students in the Des Moines school district were suspended for wearing black armbands to silently protest the Vietnam War. They sued the district and lost, but eventually a Supreme Court decision ruled in their favor in a case considered a landmark for first amendment rights. This week those students are visiting Des Moines schools to share their history-making experience with a new generation. 

Photo by John Pemble

The national tour of the musical The Bridges of Madison County launched last weekend at the Des Moines Civic Center.  The story is based on the popular novel published in the 90s about a traveling photographer who is sent to Winterset to shoot the bridges for a magazine. He meets a married farm wife and the two fall in love during a week long affair. 

Photo by John Pemble

The chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts has concluded a two-day visit to Iowa, which included conducting research for the NEA's future.  In a Town Hall-style meeting in downtown Des Moines last night, NEA Chairman Jane Chu said she'd just met with Iowa arts leaders to help write an infrastructure report.  It will assess what resources will be required to expand a community's arts sector as part of the NEA’s new initiative called Creativity Connects.

Paul Starnes

All his life, Steven Starnes, who lives in northern Iowa, was told to stay away from his father’s collection of old audio tapes. After being boxed up for two generations, the recordings have been brought back to life unlocking a love affair that goes back to the Vietnam War.

Photo by John Pemble

Small science fiction booklets created by amateurs in the 1930s gave birth to the independent publication known as zines or fanzines. The University of Iowa special collections department is storing thousands of rare zines, which are now are in the process of being digitized for the first time.  They are stored in a secure area of the University of Iowa libraries where the ceiling lights have special filters to prevent damage to priceless documents.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Immigration was a hot topic Saturday at the Iowa State Fair during Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie's time at the Political Soapbox.  Protesters often interrupted during their speeches.

As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaks, a group of 25 protesters chant while holding a sign saying "citizenship now."  The Republican presidential candidate says their activism is financed by big business interests.

John Pemble/IPR

At night, a woman holds a tired child while looking at the glowing lights of rides from the Iowa State Fair's Midway. 8/20/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Photo by John Pemble

Every hour, thousands of people walk up and down the Grand Concourse at the Iowa State Fair.  Near the curb of this busy street is the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox, a small unassuming stage surrounded by hay bales.  This is where invited presidential candidates speak for 20 minutes about anything they want.

John Pemble/IPR

During the hot days of the Iowa State Fair, kids cool off in a mist of water. 8/20/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Photo by John Pemble

Des Moines artist Ben Schuh was commissioned by the Iowa State Fair to create a mural on site during the 11-day event.  He is elevated 10 feet in the air by a motorized scaffolding, so he can work on the details of his drawing of the State Capitol and landscapes filled with wind turbines.  These are a few of the Iowa scenes on a 14-by-12 foot painting.  

John Pemble/IPR

Hannah Wickham’s ribbons in her guitar case for performing on the Bill Riley Stage.  It’s the Mt. Pleasant 18-year-old’s first time playing at the Iowa State Fair. 8/17/2015 Photo by John Pemble

John Pemble/IPR

A 1972 Allis Chalmers is one of many restored tractors at Iowa State Fair as part of the Future Farmers of America Ag Mechanics show. 8/15/2015 Photo by John Pemble

Photo by John Pemble

There is no shortage of veterinarians for house pets, but in some rural areas of the United States there aren’t enough veterinarians to go around for livestock.  A program called Vet Camp at the Iowa State Fair recognizes this problem and it is doing something to encourage youth to explore veterinary medicine on the farm as a career. 

John Pemble/IPR

First place winning Janie Orange and Safari Orange Marigold flowers are on display in the Agriculture Building along with other varieties of colorful petals. 8/14/2015 Photo by John Pemble. 

John Pemble/IPR

A foot long Corn Dogs with an large chunk of batter from one of many Campbells Concessions stands.  Campbells has been a vendor at the Iowa State Fair since 1954 when they were called Mel Little Concessions, and a Corn Dog was known as Poncho Dogs. 8/14/2015 Photo by John Pemble

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources building contains many works of art made from 10,000 water bottles that came from the donated garbage of a large church’s single day event earlier this summer.  The blue fish is one of four archway installations using 2,400 of those bottles with colored cellophane to bring out the shape.  The DNR will recycle all of this plastic when the Iowa State Fair is over. 8/14/2015 Photo by John Pemble

John Pemble/IPR

The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox is a staple of the Iowa State Fair, where candidates are given 20 minutes to give a speech. This sign shows Thursday's lineup.  8/13/2015 Photo by John Pemble

At the cultural center, Ben Schuh paints a mural of Iowa scenes which includes the skyline of downtown Des Moines.  He will continue working on his painting during the 11-day run of the Iowa State Fair.  8/13/2015 Photo by John Pemble

History lessons about World War II often focus on places where battles were fought, but a new play examines the conflict’s effect on life in a small town.  The story for “Bonds of War” centers around real events and people working at the Adair County Free Press in Greenfield, Iowa during the 1940s.  It’s written by Des Moines author John Busbee.

Photo by John Pemble

This week the Des Moines Symphony Youth Symphony finished learning Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons for a concert incorporating dance, visual art, and science.  Music and collaboration are at the core of this performance.  The students started their journey last fall by collaborating with one of the world’s most accomplished violinists, Anne Akiko Meyers.

Photo by John Pemble

In 1907 John Wayne was born in a modest four room house in Winterset, but a few years later his parents moved him from Iowa to California where Wayne flourished as a movie actor.  Since the 1980s, Wayne’s birth place has been open for tours but in 2008, organizers committed to expanding the experience by building a museum.  They hired Chicago Tribune travel writer and reviewer of western books, Brian Downes to be the executive director and head fundraiser.  

Photo by John Pemble

Steven Kennedy regularly plays “Suite del Recuerdo” by Argentine composer Jose Luis Merlin during his concerts.  It’s one of the pieces he learned in 2006 while preparing his senior college recital. “I’ve kept it around because I still love it and it’s probably one that I get the most compliments from,” says Kennedy.

Photo Courtesy of the artist

Rocky Votolato is a Seattle Washington-based Singer and Songwriter. He got his start in music more than twenty years ago in a punk band with his brother Wax Wing. After it disbanded he started performing solo. He took a break from writing and his latest record, “Hospital Handshakes,” has a similar sound to his old material. 

A couple years ago Votolato thought he was done with music. He wasn’t very proud of his last record, Television of Saints, and he decided to get a job; that ultimately didn’t work.

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