ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Jennifer Drinkwater of Ames will display works from her “The What’s Good Project” at Perry’s Art on the Prairie event this weekend.


Back in person for 2021, the 11th year of Art on the Prairie art festival is taking over downtown Perry Nov. 13–14 with vendors, special events, live music, plus shops and restaurants to check out downtown.

Held in seven historic buildings, the event celebrates art, music and literature. Hubs include Hotel Pattee, the Perry Public Library and the Carnegie Library. A mix of media forms such as ceramics, photography, jewelry and more will be for sale.    

Special events include exhibits by Ames painter Jennifer Drinkwater at The Cellar of La Poste and Betsy Peterson, who will be showing at her gallery on Second Street.

The free event also includes three children’s concerts by award-winning singer/songwriter Chad Elliott. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
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A grown-up grilled cheese with avocado, tomato and homemade garlic aioli from the Drift in Winterset.


This story appeared in our most recent issue, as a part of five restaurants to check out around Iowa. Find the full article here.

Writer: Karla Walsh

Unless you’re one of the 5,000 or so residents of Winterset, you probably think of the town as the birthplace of John Wayne rather than a dining destination. But the Drift, which opened last December, just might change your mind.

The taproom serves an enticing mix of food for dinner Wednesday through Friday and lunch and dinner Saturday. Expect classics with a slightly upscale twist. Case in point: farm-fresh deviled eggs topped with pico de gallo; a grown-up grilled cheese with avocado, tomato and homemade garlic aioli; and a walnut brownie served a la mode and made with spent grain from their branded beer.
Living History Farms is once again hosting its historic dinners, replicating how food was made over the past century.
Photo: Living History Farms


A pot roast, some mashed potatoes and homemade rolls slathered in butter—really, what’s not to love?

The historic dinners are back on the table at Living History Farms in Urbandale, where you can pull up a chair and enjoy a home-cooked meal from a time before anybody worried about something called “cholesterol.”

You can take a horse-drawn wagon to the 1900 Farm, where you can dig into a hearty meal next to the wood-burning stove. Or if you’re feeling fancy, make reservations for dinner or Victorian tea at the Flynn Mansion in the 1876 town of Walnut Hill. And don’t worry: The staff will show you which forks to use for each course.
Little pantries around Iowa allow people to drop off and pick up nonperishable food as needed.


On the campus at Drake University in Des Moines, a bright blue box sided with shake shingles greets visitors and gardeners at the Sprout: The Des Moines Urban Youth Learning Garden. Open the little box, roughly 2-feet square, and find pastas, canned goods and more. All are free and ready to grab for a meal for anyone in need.

Known as little free pantries, these boxes are popping up across the country and right here in Iowa. Started in 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the concept relies on community members to stock the pantries with food, paper products, personal care items and more.

The designs are bright and varied. Some appear at churches, others at community gardens. “We nourish our neighbors” and “take what you need, leave what you can” are both guiding principles. Sometimes corporate donors help with the initiative.

For the Drake University project (the area is a classified as a food desert), the Wellmark Foundation granted $10,000 to the initiative in 2016 (the pantry at Sprout was reinstalled this past spring). Three were built on campus. Students participating in the project worked with Drake neighborhood groups to host additional pantries throughout the area.

Other Iowa cities and towns with little free pantries include Decorah, Fairfield, Mason City, Sioux City and more.

The pantries are easy to access. For an interactive map and more information about the initiative, visit

Iowa Stops Hunger is a Business Publications Corporation initiative to bring awareness and action to food insecurity in Iowa.

The New Century Art Guild offers art workshops for veterans and their families. Photo: New Century Art Guild


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

About 20 years ago, one of Troy Muller’s art students at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs drew a scene from the World War II miniseries “Band of Brothers.” When Muller encouraged the student to draw a memory from his own experience in Vietnam, the student initially declined.

But when he eventually took up the challenge and created a charcoal drawing he called “The Incident,” he finally found closure to 30-some years of post-traumatic stress. He said it never gave him another nightmare.

“Art can access parts of the brain that language can’t reach,” Muller said. “It’s a great way for veterans to express things creatively.”

Inspired by his student’s breakthrough, Muller started a series of art workshops for veterans and their families in 2004. Since then he’s expanded the Vet-X-Press program through partnerships with colleges, universities, homeless shelters and veterans’ services organizations across western Iowa and eastern Nebraska.

Participants are encouraged to express themselves through drawing, painting, writing, music and even theater. For some, the experience filled a hole they’d previously tried to fill with drugs or alcohol.

“At least five have told me that art saved their life,” Muller said.

Muller directs the New Century Art Guild in Kimballton and Elk Horn, which recently received an Iowa Arts Council grant for a veterans’ exhibition called “Walls of Honor.” Their next veterans’ art show will be on display on Nov. 26, during the annual Julefest in Elk Horn.
Susan Werner grew up in Manchester and will perform at Stephens Auditorium Nov. 21. Photo: Stephens Auditorium


Iowa native Susan Werner will bring her "Flyover Country Fall 2021" tour to Stephens Auditorium on Nov. 21 at  7 p.m. Werner, who grew up in Manchester, composes skillful songs with shades of folk, jazz and pop, all delivered with sassy wit and classic Midwestern charm. Tickets start at $15.
Works by Catherine Opie (left) and Paul Mpagi Sepuya (right) feature in a new showcase on the Grinnell College campus. Photo: Grinnell College


A hub of creativity on the Grinnell College campus, the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts bustles with energy.

Student musicians tout cellos and other instrument cases; theater students practice lines in open spaces; artists sit quietly and sketch. At the heart of the building, the Grinnell College Museum of Art welcomes students, faculty and visitors with expressive exhibitions, including the new “Queer/Dialogue,” which highlights LGBTQ artists from around the country.

The exhibit, which runs through Dec. 12, focuses on contemporary issues—racism, politics, income inequality, discrimination, home life. Students helped select the topic. “Everything we do is with the students in mind,” says Daniel Strong, associate director and curator of exhibitions.

Featuring eight artists, the space is set into mini galleries, with several works by each maker.

The focus is diverse voices expressing their identities. Perhaps one of the examples is Brooklyn artist Doron Langberg’s paintings of domestic life. Through a wash of color, Langberg’s works emote love, passion and sadness on a monumental scale—some of his works measure 8 feet by 6 feet.

The free museum aligns with the progressive college. “The goal is to present diverse range of art as possible to both campus and community audiences,” Strong says.
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