Famous Iowans

Katherine Perkins/IPR

Just off of 2nd Avenue in Cedar Rapids sits an unassuming little carriage house. In a tiny studio apartment that used to be the hayloft, is where the most iconic American painting was created. Artist Grant Wood lived as well as worked in the space from 1924 - 1935, and he created all of his masterpieces there, including "American Gothic," "Young Corn," and "Woman with Plants."

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe toured the studio with Katherine Kunau, associate curator of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

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.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad met wellwishers in his formal office this morning on his 7,640th day in office.   That makes him the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.  

Childhood friends and longtime supporters came to the open house to congratulate Branstad on the milestone.  

Branstad explains his longevity this way.

"Growing up on a farm and learning to work hard at an early age," Branstad says.  "I had great teachers who encouraged me to go into public service."

Joyce Russell/IPR

An Ames minister will receive the 2013 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award for his 30-year  career fighting hunger in Iowa and around the world.   

In a ceremony next month, officials with the World Food Prize will honor Rev. Russ Melby who organized Church World Service Hunger Walks in Iowa communities to benefit Iowa food banks, as well as hunger relief abroad.    

Rev. Melby came to Iowa in 1984 and hoped to organize food walks in all 99 counties within five years.

The Iowa Nice Guy says he’s running to represent the “Nice Party” of Iowa.

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

English artist William Rose says the first time he saw Grant Wood’s American Gothic in person, he was surprised.

Joshua and Lori Kagavi

"The honor of my race, family & self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will."

Courtesy of Joan Becker

Five years ago, Mark Becker shot Aplington-Parkersburg head coach Ed Thomas. His mother, Joan, is now an advocate for mental health in Iowa. 

Photo by James Minchin III/AMC

Marshalltown native Toby Huss’ latest project reaches back into history into the burgeoning computer revolution of the 1980’s, when IBM was out in from of the PC wars. The new series, AMC’s Half and Catch Fire, premiers this Sunday.

Huss, along with a small group of people at a midlevel computer company in Texas called Cardiff Electric, try to reverse engineer an IBM PC, steal the technology and improve upon it. He talks with host Ben Kieffer about the new series. 

Hey Cancer

May 2, 2014
Scott Siepker

"Iowa Nice Guy" Scott Siepker joins Ben Kieffer on River to River to talk about his latest video "Hey Cancer," which he created as a humorous tribute to his late father, Terry “Zip” Siepker, who lost his second battle with leukemia last year.

"If you have somebody in your life that you love...please get out there and do it- tell the people you love that you love them!" - Scott Siepker

Join us Thursday afternoon to hear one of the great musicians of our time, Simon Estes, as he tells us about his extraordinary work as a musician, humanitarian, and educator. Born in Centerville, IA, where his father worked as a coal miner, Estes was the first black male artist ever to appear at the Bayreuth Festival (he is one of the rare singers  to triumph in all of Wagner's major operas) and has sung lead roles with all of the world's great opera houses and orchestras.

Adaptive Sports Iowa

Nick Bassett from Boone Iowa was born with a spinal tumor, and scoliosis was diagnosed when he was an infant.  In high school, the condition worsened and he was confined to a wheelchair.  Bassett joined wheelchair track and field,  and a world was opened up to him.

"It felt like freedom.  I've been bound to my disability for a lot of my life...when I got out there on the track and was able to compete against other athletes, it was the greatest feeling in the world."

Orchestra Iowa

Tune in Monday at 7PM to hear a musical high point of 2013: Orchestra Iowa's world premiere of "American Gothic," which it commissioned from composer Michael Daugherty. A Cedar Rapids native who has won international fame and multiple Grammy awards, Daugherty took his inspiration from the art of another Cedar Rapids native, Grant Wood. Orchestra Iowa is just now releasing a CD of the work, but you can re-audition the concert premiere on this Symphonies of Iowa rebroadcast, which also includes the Dvorak 7th Symphony and Rachmaninoff's The Rock. 

Johnny Carson

Oct 23, 2013
John Irving

Iowa native son Johnny Carson was the king of late night television and hosted the Tonight Show on NBC for three decades.  Join host Charity Nebbe for a talk with Carson's attorney, advisor, and friend Henry Bushkin, who has written a book about Carson's life.

Clay Masters / IPR

  The World Food Prize is commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize of Agriculture. This year it went to three biotechnology pioneers and infuriated environmental groups. The award winners were honored Thursday in Des Moines. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports.

Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation

Three Americans won the inaugural Bob Feller Act of Valor Award, announced in honor of Iowa's most famous baseball player.

Iowa State University

Iowa’s rich soil has made it an ideal place to grow plants, it has also made our state an ideal place to grow and train horticulturists.  Host Charity Nebbe, wraps up Iowa week with profiles of some of the most gifted and influential horticulturists in Iowa history.  Their lasting contributions include apples, roses, peanuts and the formation of Iowa State Agricultural College.

Peter Zillmann / HPZ / Flickr

Iowa is home to a baseball fan who sees ghosts, one spunky librarian who owns all the books in River City's library and a cat with presidential aspirations.  It is also the future birthplace of legendary starship commander Capt. James T.

Gerry Chamberlin

In 1965, 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker arrived at her Des Moines junior high wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War.  Little did she know that this simple act would lead to a historic and controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Iowa Inventors

Sep 23, 2013
Ray Krebs / flickr

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” but did you know the inventor of sliced bread is from Iowa? Today on River To River, we hear about the lives of some Iowa inventors that made an impact on their state, country, and even the world.

The Iowa inventors we cover on the show include:

Jimmy Emerson / jimmywayne / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer gets the latest on news from around Iowa.  MidAmerican Energy gives an update on the power outage which left almost 40,000 Des Moines-area residents in the dark. IPR's Joyce Russell discusses changes to the problematic Toledo Juvenile Home.  The DNR has a new report which looks at drought conditions in Iowa.  Also, Dubuque native Brooks Wheelan joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

The final vote on whether wrestling will remain an Olympic sport takes place this weekend in Argentina. So will the sport many connect with the original Olympics be ousted? The “Iowa Nice Guy”, aka Des Moines actor and filmmaker, Scott Siepker has surfaced again, this time to support wrestling’s bid to regain its Olympic spot for 2020 and ’24. We talk with him in the first half hour.

Grinnell College Office of Communications

Josiah Bushnell Grinnell was a congressman, a minister, the founder of Grinnell College and a radical.  Today on Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with a group of students at Grinnell College, who spent the semester exploring the life and beliefs of JB Grinnell.  She will talk with them about what they uncovered on the life, works, and legacy of a complicated man.

Courtesy photo

Katharine Goeldner, a native of Sigourney who's performed several times with Orchestra Iowa is in a Boston suburb as a manhunt continues for one of the two men believed responsible for the bombings at the Boston Marathon. She is singing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, but traveled to the Boston area to take her daughter on a college visit to Tufts University. She tells IPR's Pat Blank what it's been like not being able to travel as they had planned. 

Midwest Home-Cooking

Mar 13, 2013
Patrick Johanneson / Flickr

What’s your favorite traditional Midwestern home-cooked dish?  We talk about the origins of Midwestern cooking style and family recipes. Guests are the host of American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table” Lynne Rossetto Kasper and  Iowa radio homemaker Evelyn Birkby who give us their takes on homemade food staples.

IowayMovie.com / Fourth Wall Films

The people who gave our state its name are called the Ioway.   Few Iowans today know very much about the Ioway, but their stories, past and present, are being told in two new documentaries.

"Talk of Iowa" speaks with the filmmakers of "Lost Nation: The Ioway." An archeologist as well as an Ioway scholar and artist will also join the conversation.

Before the age of confessional interviews and reality television the newspaper columns of twin sisters from Sioux City, Iowa gave readers a glimpse behind closed doors and some sound advice. Charity Nebbe talks with several from Sioux City to remember the sisters who were known to all as Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers.

In 1949 Evelyn Birkby began writing a weekly column for the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel.  Her editor told her to include a recipe every week in her columns -- and she did -- even though she couldn’t cook. Listen back to Charity Nebbe's conversation with Evelyn Birkby about her life and her book, “Always Put in a Recipe.”

America's Darling: The Story of Jay N. "Ding" Darling / Facebook

Ding Darling wielded a mighty pen. He started out as a political cartoonist for the Sioux City Journal and moved on to the Des Moines Register and later to the New York Globe. Though he won two Pulitzer Prizes,  it is his work in conservation that endures. Host Charity Nebbe talks with Sam Koltinsky, the producer of a new documentary exploring the life and work of Ding Darling. Then, Darling's grandson, Christopher Koss, shares his childhood memories of growing up with the artist.

Lin Pernille / flickr

Ferner Nuhn, Ruth Suckow, Bess Streader Aldridge... the names of Iowa authors whose books have long gone out of print. A new website, Rural Lit RALLY is doing its best to make sure that they are not forgotten. Talk of Iowa rediscovers some works of literature from rural Iowa.

Also, "Iowa Nice Guy" Scott Siepker discusses his two new Iowa videos - "Cyclone Nice" and "Hawkeye Nice" with Charity Nebbe.

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