Arts & Culture

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.”

Clay Masters / IPR

Around the start of the new millennium, the eyes of the nation turned to Omaha, Neb., and bands like Bright Eyes and its label Saddle Creek Records. As it often does, the spotlight has flickered elsewhere in the search of what's next. But Omaha's music scene is still going strong: there are a number of new albums coming out this year with ties to the Midwestern city.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Twenty-one months of construction on a public space in downtown Des Moines is nearing completion.

Cowles Commons – once known as Nollen Plaza – has been undergoing a 12-million-dollar renovation since September of 2013.

Des Moines Performing Arts, which operates the Civic Center across the street from the Commons, has been leading the project.

Its president and C-E-O Jeff Chelesvig says there were some structural design elements that slowed reconstruction.

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.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Our Memorial Day special is a compilation of unique recordings showcasing Iowa’s proud contributions to music history. If you are unfamiliar with Iowa Archives, the music special is a good place to start; it exemplifies our goals of finding, broadcasting and preserving Iowa’s rich history in sound. First broadcast in 2012.

This Iowa Archives program features sound clips of Glenn Miller, the Everly Brothers, Meredith Willson, Andy Williams, Karl King, George Reeves, the Omaha Indians, and more. 

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.  

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

While many Iowans will enjoy a cold beer over the Memorial Day holiday, a beer ingredient will be getting all the attention near Solon in eastern Iowa.  The state’s largest hops farm is being planted this weekend and Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen has the story.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

 Two runners are nearing the finish line on a goal to complete a full, 26-point-two mile marathon in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

On the way to Corning in the southwest part of the state, 49-year-old Dennis Lee stops at a sandwich shop to load up for a long run into a strong head wind.

“I’ll have a foot-long sausage, egg and cheese on flat bread,” he orders

The temperature is unusually cold for early May, and there’s a threat of thunderstorms, so Lee knows he’ll need energy.

“Typically we burn about 35-hundred calories during the run,” he says.

Photo Courtesy of Rick Fredericksen

The Iowa Public Radio series Iowa Archives turns 8 this year and the project's producer, IPR's Rick Fredericksen, has tapped a lot of what's readily available and he's asking listeners for any old sound they might have. Fredericksen recaps some of Iowa Archive's highlights with Morning Edition Host Clay Masters. 

Fredericksen will host an hour special featuring the best of Iowa Archives music on Memorial Day at 10 a.m.  

If you have some audio Rick might find interesting, e-mail him at rfredericksen@iowapublicradio.org.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Short poems, essays and pieces of fiction are going on display at 13 libraries across the state. It's a project designed to connect the public to literature from a collective of artists known as Grin City.

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