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

Guest hosts Katherine Perkins and John Pemble go to the 2013 Iowa State Fair.  They introduce us to a legally blind painter and a famous quilter.  They watch fairgoers shear sheep and clean fish.  They attend an Ecumenical church service for fair attendees and visit a memorial to honor fallen Iowa soldiers.

Photo by John Pemble

Two years ago a memorial honoring Iowa’s fallen veterans began traveling around the state. This week it’s getting its biggest audience yet while on display at the Iowa State Fair.  This new memorial is part of an effort by two Nebraskans who want to make exhibits like this for every state. 

Photo by John Pemble

One of the musical performances this weekend from the Iowa State Fair is the new band “The OK Factor".  Violinist Karla Dietmeyer and cellist Olivia Hahn combine folk, alternative rock, and modern classical music. 



 

Photo by John Pemble

Elsie Monthei is a blind painter who for more than thirty years has painted landscapes.  This week she spent a day at the Iowa State Fair demonstrating her talent for Very Special Arts (VSA), a group with the mission of highlighting the artistic abilities of people with disabilities.

Photo by John Pemble

A new sculpture weighing more than twelve tons has been under construction at the Des Moines Art Center for two weeks.  It’s titled “Scree Stage”, named after the debris of fallen rocks found at the base of a mountain. It’s the center of an exhibit opening this weekend. Iowa Public Radio’s John Pemble visited the Art Center as this massive new work of art began to take its final shape.



 

Photo by Dean Borg


 



 

Photo by John Pemble

One of the biggest changes for the music industry is the shift from publishing music on CDs, to downloadable music files.  There are still artists who prefer their music be available on a tangible medium, even one as old as vinyl.  In Iowa the two year old label Maximum Ames Records, publishes all of its titles on vinyl, including H.D.

Photo by John Pemble

In the second half of the 20th century, native Iowan Norman Borlaug developed wheat seeds that increased crop yields in third world countries.  His work in agriculture led him to a Nobel Peace Prize, a Congressional Gold Medal, and next year he’ll be remembered with a statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection housed in the United States Capitol.  South Dakota artist Benjamin Victor is commissioned to create this sculpture and brought his work in progress to the Iowa Historical Building for a two week artist in residency to get the final details right.



 

John Pemble

In India, motorized rickshaws serve as taxis for short trips. In America, these vehicles are rare but over the weekend you could see them in Iowa albeit for a different purpose. A Des Moines businessman organized a rickshaw race, called “Tuk Tuk Goose”.

John Pemble

Ballet Des Moines is trying something new this year: hiring dancers for a six month residency.  It’s the first time Ballet Des Moines has six full time professional dancers to perform modern and classic productions for an entire season.
 

John Pemble

An assistive service began this weekend in Des Moines allowing blind people to hear descriptions of what’s happening on the stage of a theatrical production. The Iowa Radio Reading Information Service, or IRIS, is providing audio description for blind patrons attending shows during the Civic Center’s Broadway series.

This weekend the Des Moines Symphony performed new music commissioned for their seventy fifth season inspired by art from the city’s two block sculpture park.

Video version of this story.


 

John Pemble

Early last year the Des Moines based band Parlours released their music on a 5 song EP.  Less than 6 months later one of their songs was used in a prime time television program.  This national attention helped give the band the resources to record a full length collection.

A Burlington Middle School is now named after a key scientist in NASA’s Voyager program.  Today the Edward Stone Middle School opens for classes and Ed Stone returned to the hometown where his journey as a space scientist began. 

John Pemble

We're at the Iowa State Fair, and we're taking you with us. From the grand concourse for a Zumba lesson, to Pioneer Hall for a classic radio play, to an outdoor stage for square dancing...and monster arming wrestling to butterfly tagging. Join us for this special edition of "Talk of Iowa".

This morning the Iowa State Fair began with activities promoting the one year old Healthiest State Initiative.  It’s also the first day a dozen new food items high in fat or sugar are available, including the double bacon corn dog. 
 

It’s common for musicians to collaborate in several bands.  This weekend at the 80/35 music festival in Des Moines an active musician found himself playing in three bands during one afternoon.  Iowa Public Radio’s John Pemble followed this busy artist from one stage to the next.

This weekend the annual alternative music festival Eighty Thirty Five marks it’s fifth consecutive year of bringing national acts like Avett Brothers and Death Cab for Cutie to Des Moines.  For some these are new and unusual bands and festival organizers say this is one of the key reasons they put together this music event.

In the early 20th century Iowa had close to 1,000 opera houses but now only a few hundred are still standing and many of them are abandoned.  This summer an Iowa musician is doing a series of performances in restored opera houses highlighting these building’s historic value while showcasing contemporary musicians. 

Last Friday a new painting was unveiled in Cedar Rapids titled “You Know, We’re all in This Together”.  The work features dozens of optimistic community members in a scene about a city still recovering from the devastating flood of 2008.

Grinnell College

A young composer who is seen by many as an up-and-coming talent will soon have his new piece performed on the East Coast.  His work was written for and premiered this spring by the Grinnell College choir.  It combines the unlikely pairing of Irish poetry about Iowa with biblical passages about an apocalypse sung in Arabic.

John Pemble

Des Moines based indie rock musician Chris Ford is trying out a new venue for releasing his new CD. Instead of a typical release party or concert, he’s unveiling the work at a venue that brings musicians together with authors and visual artists during a weeklong event -- the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City.

 

For thirty six years the Ames Piano Quartet has been Iowa State University’s resident chamber music ensemble. Their accomplishments include worldwide tours and a discography of fifteen releases. Next month, two of the founding members will retire resulting in the biggest personnel change in the quartet’s history.

Photo by John Pemble

Many movies are created by large studios for theaters and television, but a group of Iowa film makers launched a small movie production company with the plan of only using the Internet to reach an audience. With small a budget and help from volunteers they’ve had their first taste of success on a national level.



 

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