ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Postville native Aleesa Lavrenko is the creator and star behind "Pressure Pointe — A Ballet Film."


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Someday, if Aleesa Lavrenko ever wins an Oscar, she’ll have to thank the friend who helped launch her filmmaking career after school one day back in January.

Just two days before the deadline for a statewide film competition, the Postville High School junior enlisted her friend, grabbed her dad’s camera and drove to the dance studio over in West Union. While Lavrenko danced, she directed her friend to shoot video from several vantage points, from the floor to the top of a ladder.

"I wanted to show the motivation behind ballet," she says. "I wanted to show the hard work that goes into a performance."

The result is a three-minute story called "Pressure Pointe – A Ballet Film," which won the 17-old-year-old filmmaker first place in "The Film Lounge: Student Challenge," an educational spinoff of the popular "Film Lounge" series produced by Iowa PBS, the Iowa Arts Council and the state film office, known as Produce Iowa.

You can see the winning film – plus a dozen more by students from Ankeny, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Marion and Waukee – during a virtual watch party at 3 p.m. Saturday on an online platform called OVEE. (Here’s a sneak peek.)

Lavrenko plans to tune in with her family. For now, the Oscars might be a long shot, but it sounds like she’s already ready for her speech.

"Take your wildest dream, your most creative idea, and try to make it into a film," she says. "And don’t be afraid to ask for help."
Large windows on the east side of Loree and David Miles’ home spotlight the acreage’s gently rolling hills and
beautiful views.


By Laura Kristine Johnson

Nestled into a small mouse hole where the wall and staircase meet, a petite nose peeks out into the open barn space beyond. The stuffed mouse’s cozy abode—a request of David and Loree Miles’ grandchildren—is just one of many custom touches the couple designed into their sprawling home on an acreage near Dallas Center.

After moving from downtown Chicago to a home in West Des Moines’ Glen Oaks neighborhood, the Mileses began searching for a secluded spot to relax on the weekends and settled on a quiet acreage outfitted with an old farmhouse, barn and outbuildings.

"We never intended to live here," Loree says. "We would come out on Saturday mornings and play all day. Then we started coming on Fridays and making excuses to stay until Monday morning. Sometime in 2010, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s live out here for the summer and see what it’s like.’ Well, we never went back."

Discover more about this home and acreage in the story, "Heart and Homestead," from ia magazine.
Many Iowa restaurants have shifted to carryout and delivery in the absence of dine-in services.


The Iowa Restaurant Association wants you to "Keep Calm and Carry Out." That's not just a witty slogan, but a call for Iowans to support their local eateries, many of which are providing carryout and delivery for the first time after dining in was prohibited in late March.

The organization's new website, named Carryout Iowa, provides a list of more than 250 restaurants (and growing) across the state offering food for carryout or delivery, complete with website information, contact information and hours. Any Iowa restaurant can join the listings by filling out a submission form.

The Iowa Restaurant Association has also started an employee relief fund for restaurant workers who face sudden unemployment. You can find that here.  
Iowa Artist Fellow Matthew Kluber works in his studio. Computer crashes led him to create works of art.


Sometimes inspiration switches on like a light bulb. Other times, it crashes your computer.

The Cedar Rapids artist Matthew Kluber, one of this year’s Iowa Artist Fellows, was teaching at Iowa State University in the mid-‘90s, back when he and some of the fine arts faculty used hand-me-down Macs from the architecture department. Whenever his computer crashed, the screen froze in a colorful mishmash of horizontal stripes.

"It was really beautiful to me because I was interested in abstraction. I loved that it wasn’t just a representation of geometric abstraction — color and stripes — but were also a kind of imploded information," he said. "I’d call in my students to take a look, and they thought I was out of my mind."

So did he ever deliberately crash the computer? "I didn’t have to," he said. "It was a crappy computer. It happened all the time."

He even printed out some of his favorite crash patterns and filed them away for posterity. And now, looking back, he has realized how those happy accidents helped shape the course of his career.

Read the rest of this story, "Iowa Artist Fellow Spotlight: Matthew Kluber," and others like it on the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs' blog.
Waterloo Creek in northeastern Iowa's Driftless Area is home to a robust population of trout. Photographer: Justin Salem Meyer.


By Kevin Hansen

It has been said many times, repeated many times, and it’s true: Trout live in beautiful places.

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that spent most weekends outdoors, fishing in ponds and lakes with spinning gear. We camped at state and county parks, and woke up early to fish for bass, crappie and catfish off a 16-foot aluminum boat. But central Iowa, where I grew up, has vast farm fields and some muddy rivers that don’t bring to mind anything close to a fly fishing paradise.

It wasn’t until my early 20s that I discovered the cold, clear spring creeks of northeast Iowa. I’m still a little bitter it took so long.

I owe everything about my progression as a fisherman to the trout in the Driftless Area—a pocket of Iowa with big bluffs, rocky limestone outcroppings and small creeks that remain cold year-round. Inside those creeks are colorful fish that dart away at the sight of my shadow and eat insects from clear water that washes over rocks and into runs.

Read the rest of this story, "Paradise Found," in ia magazine.
The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport features all kinds of jazz musicians and is scheduled for late summer. Photo: Travel Iowa


It's hard to plan events at a time when we are all social distancing, but that doesn't stop us from looking forward to those taking place at the end of summer, including the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. The annual celebration of all things jazz is scheduled for July 30-Aug. 1 at the Rhythm City Casino's Events Center in Davenport. As of now, organizers intend to move forward with festivities as planned, they've announced on their website.

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