Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

Photo by John Pemble

Des Moines artist Ben Schuh was commissioned by the Iowa State Fair to create a mural on site during the 11-day event.  He is elevated 10 feet in the air by a motorized scaffolding, so he can work on the details of his drawing of the State Capitol and landscapes filled with wind turbines.  These are a few of the Iowa scenes on a 14-by-12 foot painting.  

Prominent Des Moines arts patron and philanthropist Melva Bucksbaum has died.

She established the popular Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture Series at Drake University in memory of her late husband, Martin, the founder of General Growth Properties.

Since 1997, the series has drawn top names in politics, media and the arts, including NPR’s Nina Totenberg and former President Jimmy Carter.

The first Bucksbaum lecture was delivered by Melva’s nephew, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

Melva Bucksbaum died Sunday in Aspen, Colorado. She was 82 years old.

Chlot's Run / Flickr

Instead of a compact disc, people who preordered The Awful Purdies' album, "All Recipes Are Home," got a different, but no less meaningful physical manifestation of the album--a packet of seeds.

"The people who preordered the album planted the seeds in the spring and at the record release on June 27th, you could see the photos of the food they’d already grown. People were actually eating the food they'd grown from the album," Katie Roche, a member of The Awful Purdies, says.

Arno Wesselink / Iowa Public Radio

If you listen to Talk of Iowa and River to River regularly, you have probably heard Iowa State University psychologist Doug Gentile talk about the science behind video games and the aspect of violence media, video games, and kids; but Doug is also a member of the band, Tom and Doug.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Gentile and bandmate, Tom Florek, a computer programmer in New Jersey. The band’s goal is to take serious issues and talk about them through the lens of comedy.

Courtesy of Lauren Hanna

When Solon resident Lauren Hanna first saw her dog Clifford taking care of a blind rooster named Hedwig, she didn't believe it; but the two became fast friends.

"Hedwig will get lost out in the yard," Hanna says. "After a night when an animal attacked Hedwig and pulled some of his tail feathers out, Clifford took him under his wing."

"To see it be this ongoing relationship is amazing."

Running to the Fire

Jul 23, 2015
Waldorf College

Tim Bascom, author of the novel "Squatters' Rights" and the essay collection "The Comfort Trap" is out with a new memoir about his time growing up in the 1970's in Ethiopia, "Running to the Fire: An American Missionary Comes of Age in Revolutionary Ethiopia." (University of Iowa Press)

Consider the history of the washing machine, in which Iowa played an integral part.  You may think that the Maytag, developed in Newton, was a product of the work of company founder F.L. Maytag.  But retired educator and amateur historian Tom Hoover says Mr. Maytag was really more of a shrewd businessman who could spot genius engineers and innovators when he saw them.

Orchestra Iowa has a new concert master, Dawn Gingrich. She says she fell in love with the violin when she was three.

“I was constantly exposed to lots of great concerts,” she says. “When I was three years old, there was a women playing the violin at a concert I attended with my parents, and she had a terrific dress on. That’s really what stuck with me. I was reportedly insistent about violin lessons after that.”

Liz West / Flickr

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Patricia O'Conner, word maven and founder of “Grammarphobia.” They discuss the word itself, its interesting etymology, what it means in the US and the UK, and the origin of the phrase “knee high by the fourth of July.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

 The six members of the band known as Chaotic Inquisition are in rehearsal.

They are polishing an original tune for a studio recording session and a concert, which will conclude the two weeks of Girls Rock Des Moines. The camp aims to build confidence in young women ages ten-to-16, and to encourage more of them to pursue music. The founder and executive director of the camp, Rae Fehring, says she was struck by an observation she made while lingering in a store testing instruments.

D Sharon Pruitt / Flickr

According to professor of psychology, Marianne Lafrance, our hair plays a bigger role in our lives than we might think. She says there is a psychological impact of having a bad hair day. 

In her research, Lafrance found that a majority of people are inclined to have lower self-esteem on bad hair days.

Djh57 / Wikimedia Commons

There’s a new music festival, Hinterland, in Des Moines this summer, and other communities in Iowa are looking to get involved in the summer festival scene. This year marks the third anniversary of Fairfield’s “Fairfest,” a free weekend series of concerts and the Gentlemen of the Road Tour is stopping over in Waverly this weekend.

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.

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.”

John Bollwitt

Traditional, big American breweries are in the midst of a global identity crisis. Meanwhile, craft beer microbreweries in the U.S. are flourishing like never before.

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.

Emily Woodbury

When you put together your perfect playlist, how much of the music comes from your youth?

A new study says that most people stop seeking out new music around age 33, and some people believe that our most important cultural tastes are set in our teen years.

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.

Lindsey Moon

Last summer Beth Howard hosted her last pitchfork pie stand in Eldon at the American Gothic House. This year, she's reviving the stand, but this time she's opening up shop on the other side of the world. 

Howard will be hosting around 1,200 people at U.S. Embassy in Thailand on the fourth of July this summer as one of her last stops on her “World Piece” tour. She’s leaving Tuesday to travel the world in search of the best pie recipes and will be teaching pie making classes along the way.

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.

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.  

Courtesy of Nick Dawe

A cappella singing has come a long way since its roots in cathedrals or a barber shop quartet, as exemplified by the new film Pitch Perfect 2. Lee Nelson directs choral activities at Wartburg College and says it’s a constantly evolving genre.

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.

littlemalba / Flickr

Sigal Barsade, professor of management in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says the secret ingredient to a happy workplace is cheaper than free beer or ping pong tables--it's love.

"In the unit in which there was more affection, caring, compassion and tenderness among employees, we found there was greater employee engagement, better job satisfaction and teamwork, less employee withdrawal, less burnout, and less hard measures on absenteeism."

Courtesty of Jane Sutter Brandt

Jane Sutter Brandt remembers when her grandfather’s soda fountain in Burlington was still serving pineapple and cottage cheese for 15 cents and a tuna sandwich for a dime. She writes about the family’s business in her new memoir Sutter’s Sodas Satisfy: a Memoir of 90 Years of Sutter Drug Company.

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.

Photo by John Pemble

Steven Kennedy regularly plays “Suite del Recuerdo” by Argentine composer Jose Luis Merlin during his concerts.  It’s one of the pieces he learned in 2006 while preparing his senior college recital. “I’ve kept it around because I still love it and it’s probably one that I get the most compliments from,” says Kennedy.

Photo Courtesy of the artist

Rocky Votolato is a Seattle Washington-based Singer and Songwriter. He got his start in music more than twenty years ago in a punk band with his brother Wax Wing. After it disbanded he started performing solo. He took a break from writing and his latest record, “Hospital Handshakes,” has a similar sound to his old material. 

A couple years ago Votolato thought he was done with music. He wasn’t very proud of his last record, Television of Saints, and he decided to get a job; that ultimately didn’t work.

Alana Tamminga Photography

Students at Decorah High School have lost friends in recent years, some to accidents, some to suicide. Senior Rebecca Haars saw that her fellow students were hurting and vulnerable, so she decided to do something to help. She brought the Raw. Honest. Loved. project to Decorah.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, host Charity Nebbe talks with Haars and Alana Tamminga, the woman behind this powerful project.

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