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

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.

Photo by John Pemble

The Iowa Caucuses are less than a year away and politicians with presidential aspirations are visiting often.  California politician Samantha Clemons is visiting Iowa’s Capitol to seek inspiration. After gazing the artwork in the large reverberant rotunda, she pulls out her phone and makes a job offer to someone to run her Iowa campaign for president.

Photo by John Pemble

March 21st, 2015 was the 330th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birth, a prominent composer of classical music. On Saturday across the world, his life was celebrated through performances in unexpected public places, including one on the steps of Iowa’s former Capitol in Iowa City.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is speaking in Iowa this week to gauge support for a presidential run in 2016. 

Photo by John Pemble

At Findley Elementary School in Des Moines, art teacher Lisa Hesse begins her morning class by standing with her students in a circle as relaxing music plays.

Photo by John Pemble

Arts advocates made their case at the Capitol during a Senate Education Committee meeting.  They want lawmakers to make fine arts part of the Iowa Core for K-12 education.  Leon Kuehner, executive director of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education and a former band director, says the arts are a fundamental part of education. 

John Pemble / IPR

Clay Masters: It's Morning Edition on Iowa Public Radio. I'm Clay Masters. Governor Terry Branstad delivers his condition of the state speech this morning where he'll lay out his priorities in 2015. We sat down with the governor in his formal office at this capitol yesterday to get a bit of a preview. I start by asking the governor if this is the year a funding method will be approved to fix the state's deficent roads and bridges. 

Photo by John Pemble

The Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation is using a city bus to display new art.  Painter Alex Brown is the first of four artists to have his work photographed then printed on a vinyl seal surrounding the bus.  Brown says his paintings are comprised of aircraft and faces that are hard to make out at close range, but they become clearer from a distance.

“I was playing with the registry of things sort of slipping and being out of focus,” he says. “Kind of a varied combination of things that my eye was attracted to.”

Photo by John Pemble

 

The school year is well underway and hundreds of 4-H kids are working on projects to take to county fairs later this summer.

Photo by John Pemble

Historians and collectors gathered in Cedar Rapids last weekend to mark the 150 anniversary of the Civil War’s end.

Photo by John Pemble

After spending 104 years in Washington D.C., a sculpture of James Harlan returns to his hometown Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  Harlan was a U.S. senator and a member of President Andrew Johnson’s cabinet, but he is most remembered in Iowa as an influential college president of what is now called Iowa Wesleyan College.

Photo by John Pemble

A new play about one the country’s most influential Presidents will take place in a space only used by politicians.  “Lincoln’s Last Interview” only engagement is on the floor of the Iowa House in the State Capitol.  It’s being used as a stand in for the US House of Representatives.  The play is set on April 14th, 1865 where President Lincoln and his wife Mary give an interview to a reporter before leaving to see a play at Ford’s Theater.  

John Pemble

In this special edition of Talk of Iowa, IPR Arts and Culture reporter John Pemble and Executive Producer Katherine Perkins report on the sights and sounds of the 2014 Iowa State Fair.  Listen as we attend the 75th annual photography salon and talk with the photographer who seeks to capture the spirit of the fair in his new book.  We visit a food stand that's been serving pie and beef burgers to hungry fairgoers for 65 years, and witness the awarding of a blue ribbon for mechanical innovation on the farm.  We'll milk a cow, learn about Herbert Hoover and listen to some bluegrass.  It's all

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