ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Into the delicious world of Pulled Pork Madness

Join Laurie at Starbeck's Smokehouse, winner of the Pulled Pork Madness contest, and hear from an Iowa pig farmer about how it all begins!
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This meatball sub at Primrose in Corning features marinara sauce, mozzarella, provolone and pickled peppers smothering house-made meatballs. Photo: Courtesy of Primrose.


Writer: Hailey Allen

Tucked away in the small town of Corning is a restaurant with a big reputation. Primrose (619 Davis Ave.), a family-owned establishment that specializes in farm-to table cuisine, earned husband-and-wife co-owners Joel Mahr and Jill Fulton the Entrepreneur of the Year title in 2020 through the Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

Opened in 2018, the restaurant prides itself on using local produce supplied by Fulton’s Family Farms just outside this southwestern Iowa town of 1,700 people. The constantly rotating menu highlights the fresh seasonal ingredients. Mahr, who doubles as head chef at Primrose, has over 18 years of culinary experience and has worked at the James Beard House in New York (the headquarters of the James Beard Foundation).

Current menu items include pulled pork with cheesy grits, pickled red onions, diced tomatoes, and an egg sunny side up; and their Primrose CheeseburgerMahr secures prime cuts through the Iowa Beef Council.

Check them out on Facebook for hours and new menu updates.
Get a touch of Provence in Central Iowa at Iowa Lavender outside of Ames. The family farm is part of the Altrusa 2022 spring garden tour June 11. Photo: Courtesy of Iowa Lavender.


Located southeast of Ames, Iowa Lavender has created a success with the aromatic herb. The business, owned by Jason and Jessica Mortvedt, sells hardy varieties of the plant as well as bath salts, balms, salves, essential oils and more. You'll find the perfect gifts for your bestie (or yourself).

Tour the garden this Saturday as part of the Altrusa of Ames Spring Garden Tour, and pick up plants and goodies for at-home spa time. The farm, which started in 2020, will offer a "you-pick" option later in the season and also frequents the Ames farmers market. Find product and farm information here or on their Facebook page.
The African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids is hosting festivities all daty June 18. The event is being held at NewBo City Market, just a few blocks away. Photo: Courtesy of the African American Museum of Iowa.


Cedar Rapids is celebrating Black culture June 18 with a day full of live entertainment including dance, several genres of music and spoken-word poetry. The festival is taking place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. See the schedule of events here.

NewBo City Market will host Black-owned businesses inside at the same time, and representatives from various community and local organizations will also have tables at the celebration.

Declared an official U.S. federal holiday in 2021, Juneteenth commemorates the day the last slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. Iowa has recognized the day as an official holiday since 2002.

On June 19, the Cedar Rapids Opera is performing a community concert at NewBo City Market Bankers Trust Stage. The free performance is at 2 p.m.

While in Cedar Rapids, visit the African American Museum of Iowa to learn about the practice of redlining, the Underground Railroad and the history of Blacks in Iowa. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
See some of Gabi Torres' work is displayed in the Grove in Clinton through the summer. Photo: Courtesy of Gabi Torres.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

An idea that sprouted during the pandemic is now fully grown. The Grove, an outdoor art exhibit, opened this week in a pocket park in Clinton.

Its creator, local artist Gabi Torres, describes it as an “art forest.” She used a pandemic-relief grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to hire a pair of local woodworkers to create a thicket of free-standing poles and frames to display a dozen paintings.

The project will remain through this fall in an overlooked space between a low-income neighborhood and some warehouses on the riverfront. As Torres puts it, “I love that this will be the backdrop for something so beautiful.”
RJ Home in Earlham (about 30 minutes west of Des Moines) opens its two downtown storefronts this weekend. Home decor enthusiasts will find lots to love at the sale. Photo: Courtesy of RJ Home.


Looking for an affordable home refresh for summer? RJ Home’s two stores in Earlham (135 N. Chestnut Ave. and 135 S. Chestnut Ave.) are loaded with curated accessories, textiles, table toppers and furniture to update your space. We promise you’ll be tempted to pull out the plastic.

The business is open one weekend a month; hours are Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

On our May trip, we were tempted by oversize log side tables, slabs of reclaimed wood for shelves, brown wineglasses and decorative planters for our indoor botanicals. The two shops are just a few minutes’ walk apart. Learn more on their website.

While in town, plan on breakfast or lunch at Beans & Beignets. In addition to cafe au lait or a cold brew, you’ll find traditional breakfast options such as pancakes or egg scrambles; lunch includes a variety of salads and sandwiches. And as the name suggests, the downtown restaurant also dishes beignets. Order a traditional version or try the treat topped with cinnamon sugar or lemon.

Next door, Flourish Mercantile and Florals tempts with more home decor, kitchenware and creative floral arrangements.
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An exhibitgoer uses VR tech to decipher symbols on the wall. Check out this video to see more about how the exhibit works. Photo: Courtesy of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Equal parts art, history and high-tech science, a new interactive exhibit at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids highlights notable Czech contributions to engineering and design.

The Czech Innovation Expo starts with a scattering of abstract symbols in an otherwise bare gallery. Visitors download an augmented-reality app that deciphers the symbols into stories that explain the origins of various Czech inventions and breakthroughs. Everything from bicycles to rockets to electron microscopes has benefited from creative Czech brains.

The traveling exhibit was prepared by the Czech Center with the Czech Academy of Sciences. Its Iowa visit, through June 26, was funded in part by BetterLife and the Iowa Arts Council.
Stroll through Dubuque’s Millwork historic district to find coffee shops, breweries and dining options (anyone say Top Chef caliber?). Photo: Courtesy of Travel Dubuque.


Discover your home away from home in Dubuque, Iowa’s oldest town, at the top of one of the city’s highest hills. The Queen Ann-style Hancock House Bed and Breakfast was built in the 1890s by Charles Hancock, the third son of John T. Hancock, one of the most successful Midwest grocers of his time. After acting as home for Charles and his family, it was later converted into its current iteration as a bed and breakfast.

Guests can now book stays in a guest room that’s named after the family member who slept there or the purpose of the space, such as the library. Most come with fireplaces, showers and whirlpools, and you can witness history in everything from the wallpaper to the tea party tableware collection.

Dubuque has a surprisingly lengthy hops history (Google “Dubuque Star Brewing Co.” if you haven’t heard that story), so consider a brew or cider tour. Jubeck New World Brewing, 7 Hills Brewing Co., and Dimensional Brewing are all within walking distance and offer substantial snacks if you get peckish.

Nearly 40 murals have been added to Dubuque’s downtown streets in the past five years, so as you explore and walk from brewery to brewery, you can try to find them all—including the colorful, floral tribute to Iowa botanist, educator and preservationist Ada Hayden by renowned artist Gaia.

Read more about the city's offerings here.

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