Arts & Culture

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.

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.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Among other things, the Iowa State Fair is identified with its buildings: from the enormous Grandstand to the dignified Pioneer Hall. Officials have launched a campaign to restore one of the fair's most unlikely architectural treasurers: the Sheep Barn. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen has the story.

The brick barn dates back to 1915 and hundreds of thousands of curious fairgoers, if not millions, have walked through the sprawling shelter to gawk, some of them with video cameras rolling.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

An Iowa man grew up playing in one of the coolest hide-outs around: an old-fashioned, vacant grain elevator. Today, he is restoring it as a tribute to early American agriculture. Phase one has been completed and Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen was there for the dramatic finish. 

Kent Newman

Raha Moharrak had been a world-renowned athlete for years, but still had one gap in knowledge. 

"I was a little bit arrogant," says Moharrak. "I said, 'Oh I climbed fourteen mountains including Everest, I can learn a bike.' I was wrong. I needed help."

But she learned to ride and this month joined RAGBRAI at the urging of Mara Gubuan, an Urbandale native who originally set out to ride RAGBRAI with her high school friends for their fiftieth birthday. Gubuan works with Shirzanan Global, an organization that empowers Muslim women through sport. 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

At the Iowa Capitol this evening (July 5), the Des Moines Metro Concert Band will close out its 69th season. It will include patriotic tunes, as usual, and something else that is fairly recent: a pitch for donations to keep the historic band going. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports. 

It started as the Des Moines Municipal Band Project, presenting 55 musicians, with celebrity announcers and guest soloists, including song birds, an occasional loud motorcycle and freight train whistles. It continues to provide family entertainment as it has for generations.

Des Moines Metro Band archives

Two free concerts will bookend the 4th of July weekend at the State Capitol. Tonight, it’s the Des Moines Symphony’s Yankee Doodle Pops. Sunday evening, the Des Moines Metro Concert Band will take the stage. The Metro Band is concluding its 69th season and Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen prepared this Iowa Archives special, with technical assistance from John Pemble.

A couple hours after rehearsal at Drake University, the Des Moines Metro Concert Band relocates to the Iowa Capitol; the song birds and all the musicians are in tune for another Sunday evening performance.

Barney Sherman

In 2009, Michael Gilbertson - a young man from Dubuque who has become one of America's leading composers - wanted to raise funds for his alma mater, the Northeast Iowa School of Music.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Examples of public art are appearing across Iowa in parks, on street corners, and in the lobbies of office buildings. Sculptor Bounnak Thammavong has been commissioned to create a piece that will be seen by thousands of travelers passing through the Des Moines International Airport.

On a late spring afternoon, Thammavong melts aluminum using a welding torch in his garage-turned-studio behind his house in Swisher.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Among other things, Iowa is famous for corn, insurance and presidential campaigns. Perhaps the state’s most unknown creation is almost ready for shipment abroad. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports from Ida County.

A former National Guard Armory is where relics of history are resurrected on the edge of Ida Grove. Wood workers are trimming, routing and varnishing rafters and decorative trim for an old fashioned trolley car, the kind of transportation that used to be common. Grant Godbersen is Vice President of Gomaco Trolley Company.

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.

Courtesy of the Justice Corps of Iowa / Facebook

With comic books, science fiction, and superheroes, geek culture is having a moment. Phil Hester, a comic book illustrator and author from North English, Ia, says that is due to its traction in mainstream movies.

“Now all this stuff that you couldn’t dream of looking real, sounding real, and moving in a real way, now can be done on screen. That has opened it up to a sea of people that wouldn’t be caught dead walking in a comic book store.”

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