Arts & Culture

Melissa Stukenholtz / Gorman House Photograph

Sixteen years ago, Patresa Hartman started writing songs, but she kept them hidden because she was afraid to let anyone hear them.  By 2011, she had enough of this performance phobia and looked for a place to play her music.

Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

McGregor, Iowa might be the birthplace of American circus. The Ringling brothers, after all, were born there and spent 12 years there before moving to Baraboo, Wisconsin, where they founded the Ringling Brothers Circus. 

Peter Wagner, past-president of the Circus Fans Association of America, has researched the brothers' history in Iowa. 

"Their first show was in McGregor. At that time, they weren't even a traveling circus," he says. "They would go to various states and check into a hotel and then would announce that they would do a show in the lobby of the hotel." 

Courtesy of Akwi Nji / The Hook

“The Hook” is building community and bringing people together in Cedar Rapids through story-telling, poetry and other performance. The creative collaborative began in January 2016 with poetry readings and curated live performances. Now it's expanded to ARTLoud, a program that intersects poetry, music, and dance, and a new series that takes place in the living rooms of regular folks around the city.

Photo Courtesy of the Des Moines Metro Opera

The Des Moines Metro Opera opens its run of Soldier Songs this weekend at Camp Dodge in Johnston. It will be the first time an opera has been performed at an active military base. 

Michael Mayes, the operatic baritone who will be performing the one -man opera, says it's been a unique experience to be rehearsing a piece like Soldier Songs in front of active military service members. 

John Pemble/IPR

Dozens of artists and representatives of arts organizations from around the state crowded a committee room at the statehouse today, urging lawmakers not to empty out a trust fund that benefits the arts in communities around the state.   

The Iowa Cultural Trust fund is on the chopping block as state lawmakers strive to cover a shortfall in the state budget for the fiscal year that ends in June. 

A tentative budget agreement would take the entire $6 million in the fund, and use it to offset cuts to a range of state agencies.

IPR's Emily Woodbury

Still printed on a 19-century letterpress printing machine in Anamosa, IA, publisher Tim Fay has just released his 23rd issue of "The Wapsipinicon Almanac."  It's a homegrown, homemade journal and features essays, stories and articles by Iowa writers.  The first issue was published in 1988 and you can't order it or read it online.  You'll have to find it in a bookstore or other shop.

IPR's Studio One Underground series for 2017 has begun! On Thursday the 5th, we returned to the Des Moines Social Club for our monthly live broadcast, with our guests the Surf Zombies performing two terrific sets. While we were at it, we talked about the band's recent honors bestowed upon them by the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and an Iowa brewery. And as if all that weren't enough, the Surf Zombies were kind enough to help jump-start the IPR van at the end of an especially cold January night!

Danville Station Library and Museum

In 1940, weeks before Amsterdam was occupied by Germany, Anne Frank and her sister Margot wrote letters to eighth graders in Danville, Iowa as part of an international pen pal exchange.  Enlarged copies of these documents have been available to view by appointment only, but this year they’ll become more accessible in a museum. It will be in a building called The Danville Station which also houses a new public library that just opened.

John Pemble / IPR

For 30 years, native Iowan Bill Stewart has been a professional jazz drummer living on the East Coast.  He has appeared on dozens of albums, including his sixth solo record Space Squid that came out earlier this year.

Most of Stewart's recorded work is as a sideman, but when he has enough material and isn't in demand with other bands, he makes his own music.  He recorded his first album "Think Before You Think" in 1988 after graduating from William Patterson University in New Jersey.

Lulu Vision / Flickr

As we head into some of the biggest shopping days of the year, have you stopped to think about how the stuff you buy impacts your pocketbook, the environment and the people who make it? Most of us don't, but a class at the University of Northern Iowa asked students to give it some thought. It's called the un-shopping challenge, and students Alli Albright and Connor Tomke took part, and host Charity Nebbe talked with them about the experience on Talk of Iowa.

John Pemble / IPR

In the 1920s, bar associations refused African American lawyers membership, so a dozen lawmakers formed their own in Des Moines. The founding of the National Bar Association in 1925 will be honored with a 30-foot statue this spring called “A Monumental Journey.”  It will be installed this spring in a downtown Des Moines park.

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.

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.

 

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Across the country artisan and specialty cheese is big business, with annual sales approaching $4 billion. And as American palates become ever more adventurous, cheese makers and sellers say they need a higher level of expertise.

So Wednesday roughly 200 so-called cheese mongers from around the country will gather in Des Moines to sit for a three-hour exam. If they pass, they become Certified Cheese Professionals.

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.

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.

 

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. 

Bill Eppridge / Time & Life Pictures

When most of us think about hippies we think about thousands of people defined by life-style, fashion, music and political choices. The original hippies may have been looking for a little peace, love and understanding, but their ideas sparked an economic revolution.

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.”  

 

Courtesy of Matthew Christopher

Matthew Christopher is a rising star in the world of high fashion and wedding gown design. With seven collections, a handful of red carpet gowns to his name, and a flagship salon in New York City, you might not guess he's originally from Wellman, Iowa. This week, Christopher returns to Iowa for the inaugural Flyover Fashion Fest.

"We are bringing my 2016 collection, which is absolutely stunning, and we're going to bringing some new looks, what's going on in the bridal industry. It's exciting to bring this to my hometown area."

The student art exhibit that just went up in Drake University’s Harmon Fine Arts Center crosses the intersection between art and the natural world. It’s the result of work created in a class called Planets. 

Drake associate art professor Angela Battle is pawing through an untidy box of display materials as she searches for things by which student artwork might attach to a gallery wall.

“See all the stuff required to hang an exhibition," she says. "Where are they?”

Brave Lux Photography

The women behind the new podcast “Quilt Your Heart Out” describe the show as Car Talk for quilters. On this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks quilting and podcasting with Marianne and Mary Fons, best known as the hosts of the PBS television show "Love of Quilting."  

photo courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Lou Henry Hoover, first lady of President Herbert Hoover, was born in Waterloo, Iowa in 1874. While she moved around a lot as a youth and considered herself a Westerner, her birth here and eventually marriage to Herbert Hoover, born in West Branch, means many Iowans claim her as their own.

She got involved with the Girl Scouts in 1917 and after serving as a part of the leadership of the organization, and as it's first president, she realized the group needed money. 

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Hip-hop artist Dahlak Brathwaite was arrested after being caught with magic mushrooms as a youth.  During a show he calls Spiritrials, he raps about his arrest and how he was treated by the criminal justice system. 

"The way the criminal justice system is set up, if you are caught with drugs, you are labeled as a drug addict who needs help," he says.

courtesy of the Iowa Fashion Project

The Midwest is not traditionally regarded as a style hub, but a few young designers based in Iowa are trying to change that. They’ve launched the Iowa Fashion Project, which will hold its first full fashion show in just a few weeks.

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.

John Pemble

The National Endowment for the Arts was created in 1965 under the Johnson Administration. NEA Chairman Jane Chu has been in office for a little over a year, and during that time she has traveled to 30 states. Chu is currently in Iowa, her first visit to the state as Chairman. 

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Chu about the NEA's current focus, the division's 50th anniversary, and whether we should be encouraging young people into a career in the arts.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A group of students in the Des Moines Public Schools are using art and poetry to address some of the nation’s most divisive social issues, such as racial divisions and immigrant rights. It’s in a course called Urban Leadership.

Sixteen-year old Jalesha Johnson has collected her thoughts on the plight of refugees in the form of a poem.

“This is us living the American dream.". she reads. "This is every migrant who never woke up, I wonder if the ships start sinking because they can’t hold all of that hope .”

Sculpt Siouxland

Someone has stolen a bronze statue from downtown Sioux City. The city’s Art Center discovered "Goddess of the Grapes" was gone on Tuesday from it's 4th Street location, after doing an inventory of all the public art sculptures it maintains.

The roughly 20-inch statue depicts a young woman holding grapes, standing on her toes and reaching towards the sky. "Goddess of the Grapes" is owned by the nonprofit Sculpt Siouxland and maintained by the Sioux City Art Center.

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