Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

It’s 2007, “The World Spins Madly On” is a massive hit, and The Weepies are exhausted.

“We did a year of our car, coffeehouses, 180 shows in 190 days where we were at festivals in Europe and everywhere, and we were just exhausted. And we are like recluses,” says Steve Tannen, one half of the folk-pop/husband-wife duo.

So, after releasing and touring their second album, Say I Am You, he and Deb Talan escaped to a small cabin in a state park one hour outside of Los Angeles, to take a breath and regroup.

“For that time, it was a real refuge. Yea, we did run away a little bit. Partly in order to make our next record and not feel like we had something to prove, just to sort of get a little bit of a cave, where we could just sort of do what we do,” says Talan.

And while their move to Iowa City may make it seem like they’ve run away again, Tannen and Talan says it’s simply the right place for them and their three children.

“This felt more like a running to, to me,” says Talan. “We had two kids, we started looking outside LA. It was so expensive and so crazy, and we had really embraced the crazy for a bunch of years, and then we were just like, ‘I think we need to at least try to feel what it feels like to be outside.’”

“We’re vagabonds and we wanted to put roots down somewhere,” Tannen adds, “and every time we’d been through Iowa we’d say to each other, ‘This is amazing, we should buy a house here and raise a bunch of kids.’”

Their upcoming tour kicks off at the Englert Theater with “The Weepies: Completely Acoustic and Alone.” In this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Tannen and Talan about recording Sirens, living in Iowa, and how creating music and creating a family intertwine.

Four essentials and four bonus tracks to get acquainted with the folk-pop duo.

Somebody Loved

Tannen has said the key lyric at the center of this song--"You turned me into somebody loved."--is the Tannen-Talan family motto.

The World Spins Madly On

The song that catapulted them to folk-pop stardom.

"The record sold 238 copies the first week," says Tannen. "Then, three months later, it was the number one song on the folk charts of eight countries, including America, and it was on the strength essentially of people sharing that song. I didn't want it on the record, because it was my voice. I love Deb's voice. Mine is fine, I have a fine voice."

"You have a beautiful, emotional voice," Talan interrupts.

She continues, "We were very surprised with how it sort of caught. You put out music that you feel. You write songs that you feel and you produce them in a way that is 'feelingful' and you put them out in the world. And we have songs that are particularly personally resonate, but there's no saying what other people will sort of--what will resonate in their own lives."

Be My Thrill

In a Java Blend interview from May 2015, Tannen explained the origins behind this song were rooted in an argument he and Talan had.

"I just stormed out, I was like 'Fine!' in order to not admit that I was wrong. And I went out and I wrote a song about what I thought I wanted, and it was like the angriest song that I've ever-- and it was some of this song. And I played it for Deb, like 'Here, here's my apology.' [strums guitar angrily] And she said 'Oh my god, it's a love song,' proving what I thought, which is that she's insane. And then she took it and she fixed it and she made it like this, and she made it into an actual love song, and that is marriage as far as I'm concerned."

Sirens

The titular song from their latest album, Sirens was recorded in one take, in the midst of Talan's chemotherapy treatments.

"That was while Deb had chemo and we didn't know what was going to happen and she was extraordinarily tired that week and just impossible to live with, because she was like 'I'm getting into the studio today.' And she couldn't get up, so I helped her up the stairs, and we got one take. And that was that take. And it brought me right back there. And I think that that force of will is what got Deb through. I really do. Deb's ability to say 'This is what I'm doing with my life, whatever is happening.'"

"And your support through it," she adds. "It was a team effort. It was very much a team effort."

Bonus tracks

Jolene

From their first album, Happiness

Orbiting

From their third album, Hideaway

Can't Go Back Now

Also from Hideaway

No Trouble

This video for another hit off of Sirens features photos of the Tannen-Talans at home

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

It is hard to have conversations with people who disagree with your viewpoint. If you're having an even harder time with those conversations lately, you're not alone. 

"This election has played to our most primitive fear, and fight or flight responses. A lot of us are just weary and need to give ourselves time to muster those better qualities in ourselves," says Krista Tippett, host of the radio show On Being.

"Compassion, empathy and understanding don't feel very natural right now, but they are what are needed to live right now."

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.

Comic, author, and actress Jen Kirkman comes to Iowa this weekend as part of the Witching Hour Festival. On her latest special on Netflix, I'm Going to Die Alone (and I Feel Fine), Kirkman dives into the topic of her decision to not have children.

"Even the movement itself is called 'Childfree by Choice' and choice to me illustrates, you know, Coke or Pepsi, you sit there and you weigh the options. To me it was a non-instinct. It never dawned on me to even want children, ever. It wasn't even a choice."'

John Pemble / IPR

A year before the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of journalists come here to cover the many presidential candidates. This month, a Los Angeles crew is in Iowa filming six 30 minute episodes of a comedy television series about being a reporter during the campaign season.  “Embeds” centers around four young reporters covering a presidential candidate struggling to stay in the race.  

portrait by George Catlin, photo courtesy of Cliff / Flickr

Moccasin, chipmunk, hickory--many words from Native American languages have morphed into words we use in modern American English. English language expert Patricia O’Connor explains that many Native American words that have been adopted into English still retain their native associations, but there are many words especially for animals and different kinds of food that have gone full cross cultural.

julochka / Flickr

Doris Montag is a museum curator without a museum. She creates exhibits that are shown at public libraries and museums all over Eastern Iowa. There was the exhibit on egg cartons at the Coralville Public Library this summer and the exhibit on the history of barbers at the Johnson County Historical Society Museum, and one on Black Santas incoming to the African American Museum of Iowa. She finds her inspiration in the stories told by every day objects.

Frank Kovalchek / Wikimedia Commons

Just about a decade ago, Roger Miller, along with some fellow steel guitar players, started to worry about the future of the instrument. There weren't a lot of young players. So they did something about it and founded the Jump Start Academy, which pairs seasoned steel petal guitar musicians with young people who want to learn.

"We'll give you a steel guitar to play on and pair you with a mentor for a year," explains Miller. "We've got teachers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, so this is growing across the Midwest." 

If you haven't tuned in to our 24-hour Studio One music stream ... today is the day!

Iowa Public Radio Studio One is listener supported radio playing a carefully curated mix of new progressive music alongside nostalgic iconic tunes. Expect to hear great music by artists like Wilco, Mumford and Sons, Paul Simon, The Head and The Heart, as well as many Iowa musicians.

Today on Gas Monday at Noon and 6:00 p.m., you'll hear TWINS, Annaliberra, House of Large Sizes, Courtney Krause, The Host Country, and Wooden Nickel Lottery and more.

S Pakhrin

History is written by the victors, and for hundreds of years, that has meant that the history of indigenous people in the U.S. has been simplified, twisted, or simply ignored.

courtesy of Steve Gerberich / gerbomatic.com

What does it take to make it as an artist? When the line between success and failure is so thin, what factors contribute to an artist making it? For some, the old adage “Success is a third talent, a third perseverance, and a third talent” may not apply.

“I’d take ‘a third talent’ out of that, and I’d replace perseverance with attrition,” laughs Halt and Catch Fire actor Toby Huss.

Courtesy of Bill Close

For many students who attended Peet Junior High in Cedar Falls, Bill Close was one of those teachers who was larger than life, just like the art he worked on with his students.

For nearly a quarter century, he designed mega sculptures that he enlisted his art students to help build as a part of his art class.

"The ladies in the cafeteria asked us to make some posters for National School Lunch Week. When I proposed the colored posters for school lunch week, their eyes kind of rolled,” he says about his students at the time.

Courtesy of Gaelynn Lea

In March a singer, songwriter, and fiddler from Duluth, Minnesota won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. Now, Gaelynn Lea is embarking on her first solo tour and bringing her music to Iowa.

ASK Studio

An area of north Des Moines that holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many central Iowans is being remade into a site where future generations can build memories.

Riverview Park sat on an island near the Des Moines River and operated from 1915 until 1978.

Plans are now in place to convert it into an outdoor concert venue large enough for 10,000 people.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation Director Ben Page says in designing the project, it was important to celebrate the future while honoring the past.

Courtesy of Asphate

Paintings, symphonies, and sculptures have long been considered art forms, but the last century has given way to newer forms of expression that many consider to be artistic.

"Art is something that captures a lot of what we all agree upon is important or beautiful, but what makes it art is something that takes it into that realm of someone's imagination," says Todd Behrens, curator of the Sioux City Art Museum.

The act of creating is a powerful one, but you don't have to be a professional artist to tap into that power.  On this "Iowa Week" program about the arts in Iowa, we talk to a number of Iowans about art in their communities, from theater to community bands to the visual arts. 

MCAD Library

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on architecture in Iowa. He’s joined by Iowa State University College of Design associate professors Dan Naegele and Cameron Campbell. They explain how building design in Iowa has changed over the decades, what is says about us, and the art of the field.

Michael Leland / Iowa Public Radio

Humans have been making monuments and memorializing events, people, and tragedies for a long time. Do we think about memorials different today than we used to? 

According to David Schmitz, who is Executive Director with the Dubuque Museum of Art, the answer is yes.  Schmidtz has worked cataloging memorials and monuments in the state. 

When you think of the state of Iowa, you might not initially find yourself thinking about its music scene or rich musical culture. But there is a growing diversity of sound in the state and a “special sauce” that makes the music that’s made here unique.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dave Zollo, Iowa City based artist and founder of Trailer Records; Luke Tweedy, owner of Flat Black Studios and Tim Hankewich of Orchestra Iowa about music in Iowa.

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.

Rob Dillard

A group of artists are part of an exhibit at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. What sets the Living Proof Exhibit apart from other displays is how the work has helped these artists through some dark days. 

You might call the collection of more than 60 pieces of art at the Figge a smorgasbord exhibit. It includes everything from fiber art, such as sewing and knitting and a quilt, to painting, encaustics and photography, the more traditional forms of art.

There is one thing, however, that ties all of this work together.

Anna Williams / Iowa Public Radio

Four hundred years after his death in 1616, the plays of William Shakespeare are still performed around the world. With 410 feature-length films and numerous TV retellings of his work, Shakespeare is recognized as the most filmed author of all time and has writing credits on 1100 films. 

None of this would have been possible without one book: the First Folio, which is a collection of Shakespeare's plays that was published in 1623. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

From the time it opened in 1972, Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus was one of the premier performance spaces in Iowa. That all changed with the historic flooding of Eastern Iowa in 2008 when the auditorium was flooded beyond repair.

Executive Director Chuck Swanson says he remembers the flooding being surreal.  

courtesy Des Moines Register

"This is a great article, just don't read the comment section" is a warning and rebuke sent in emails and attached to links throughout the Internet. But when news organizations like NPR and the Quad City Times decide to shut their comment sections down, an outcry claiming the loss of the Internet's public square usually follows. Racheal Ruble, Lecturer in the Communication Studies Program at Iowa State University, says the need to comment online comes, oddly enough, from a sense of community.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

After more than 10 years, Sean Moeller is leaving Daytrotter. He says it seems like the right time, and he’s ready for a new project. During this Talk of Iowa interview, he talks with host Charity Nebbe about why he’s moving on, what he’s built, and how Daytrotter began.

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.

 

John Pemble / IPR

The 2016 Iowa State Fair got underway this morning with an opening ceremony at the newly-renovated Oman Family Youth Inn building.  It’s one of many fair facilities that’s been upgraded in recent years with funding from the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  Fair manager Gary Slater says since the foundation was formed 23 years ago, it has raised $125 million.

"We have completed many renovation projects, many new construction projects, that obviously would not have been possible without this public-private partnership that we have," says Slater.

Deb Herbold

Starting today artist Rose Frantzen will be live painting 20 Iowans, two each day of the Iowa State Fair in the Varied Industries Building as part of Iowa State University’s “Your Beautiful Adventure” project.

Horticulture Day Celebrates 30 years

Aug 3, 2016
Michael Leland

Iowa Public Radio’s Horticulture Day call-in show on Talk of Iowa turned 30 this year and to celebrate, staff and show host Charity Nebbe marked the milestone with a live show and family field day in Ames at the ISU Horticulture Research Station on Saturday, July 30. Four hundred IPR listeners and members attended the event.

Show favorites ISU Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron and ISU Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis as well as other members of the Hort Gang joined Nebbe on the panel to discuss lawn and gardening and share favorite stories from the past 30 years. 

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