ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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MAY 13, 2021  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
ChopTalk: Animal care requires a team approach

Iowa raises lots of pigs! So, you may have questions about their care. ChopTalk host Laurie Johns talks about animal care with a livestock trucker and ISU expert.
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In Winterset, you can see these cute little guys at Rusty Stars Alpacas. Photo: Rusty Stars Alpacas


Located about 40 minutes southwest of Des Moines, Madison County makes for a perfect day away amid the rolling hills, verdant parks and picturesque towns. Here are a few of our favorite stops besides the covered bridges and John Wayne landmarks.

See Animals
If you’ve got kids—or just like visiting unique farms—the county provides a few creative establishments. Bare Bison, located several miles from Howell Tree Farm in Cumming, offers ATV tours of their bison ranch as well as shopping for a variety of their lean cuts of meat, super-soft sweatshirts, branded trucker caps and more. Pick up a few bison bars or sticks to fuel the day’s adventure. For more fuzzy encounters, stop by Rusty Stars Alpacas in Winterset. Open Saturdays, the farm features a store with clothing from the animals, yarn from the farm, socks and more. Plus, you can get up close to the South American softies.

Dine and Shop Winterset’s Town Square
Anchored by its historic courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Winterset has one of the newest, hottest dining halls in the state, the Drift. With craft cocktails, beers, wines and grazing boards loaded with European cheese, house-made mustard and other bites such as grown-up grilled cheese, the new-in-December restaurant is quickly becoming a fan favorite (open Wednesday through Sunday). If you're in town on Saturday, check out the morning farmers market, and make sure to browse local businesses on the square.

Hit Water or Land Trails
The Middle River is one of the most scenic spots in Central Iowa for paddlers. Our favorite put-in is the Roseman Bridge, with takeout at Pammel Park. The 8-mile route, which takes several hours to float, winds through limestone bluffs and dense woods. If you prefer to hike, the county has more than 20 miles of developed trails, including Pammel Park and our secret spot, Clanton Creek Natural Resource Area. Check out Madison County Conservation’s site for maps and information.

Savor a Sip
With three wineries and a cidery in the county, you can pick your spirits adventure. Awarded 2020’s winemaker of the year by the Iowa Wine Growers Association, Covered Bridges Winery and vintner Kevin Fifo consistently deliver tasty flavors in a relaxed environment. Their motto: Open, pour, sip, rest under a tree. Plus, you can enjoy live tunes throughout the season. For beer lovers, check out Big Rack Brew Haus (sample the seasonals). Cider fans can enjoy flavors such as apple pie and limestone habanero at Winterset Cidery; their season opening is May 15.
A new exhibit called “OrigamiintheGarden²” at Ames' Reiman Gardens will showcase large-scale origami works, including "Painted Ponies" by Kevin Box and Te Jui Fu.


Writer: Jeff Morgan
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The delicate nature of origami is unfolding in a new sculpture exhibit this month at Reiman Gardens in Ames.

“OrigamiintheGarden²,” featuring giant origami-inspired works, opens May 22 and runs through Nov. 14. The exhibit represents a labor of love, patience and the power of the human spirit. It fits neatly into Reiman’s 2021 theme of “Patterns Unfolding”—a nod to the time people spend reflecting, connecting and celebrating their ties to nature and each other.

Through paper and museum-quality art pieces, the exhibit also explores the connections between origami and nature. For example, paper is derived almost exclusively from plants, and origami and gardens both require patience, persistence and an understanding of the process. What’s more, they are reflections of the planet and its many colors.

The result is carefully crafted spaces where you can explore art, enjoy nature and find tranquility.

If you haven't been to Reiman Gardens in a while, be sure to check out Sycamore Falls, a new-in-2020 south-side garden with a few new paths, thousands of flowers, and a custom-built tower.
10 Tips for Protecting Your Home While You're Away on Vacation

After being cooped up for months at a time, everyone needs a vacation! With warmer weather and the end of school around the corner, many families are thinking about taking to the road (or the beach, or the mountains) for a much-needed sabbatical. Before you go, however, you should take a few steps to protect your home and make sure it stays safe and ready for your return while you’re resting and recharging.
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River Glen Breitbach will present "We Are Here," a free all-Iowa concert that will be livestreamed this month from xBk Live in Des Moines. Photo: River Glen Breitbach


Writer: Jeff Morgan
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Talk with Iowa musician River Glen Breitbach about his next project, and you can imagine him shouting, “Ollie, ollie, in come free!”

Frustrated by the “hide-and-seek” nature of entertainment options imposed by the pandemic, the Iowa Artist Fellow is calling out musicians and fans for “We Are Here,” a free concert livestreamed this month from xBk, a live music venue in Des Moines.

It’s “a celebration of Iowa music from across the state,” he says, "an acknowledgment that artists are responding to a new avenue of artistry, and a message that live online performances are here to stay.”

While musicians have adapted to online outlets, the digital experience has left a void for performers and audiences.

“There was something missing that the virtual world just couldn’t create, and that was a connection to community,” says Lindsay Keast of the Iowa Arts Council. “The side conversations and chance encounters, the energy, the sense that you belong to something greater just wasn’t there like it is in person.”

Breitbach, who grew up in Dubuque, hopes “We Are Here” will help bring those experiences to the digital world. The all-Iowa lineup includes Sara Routh, Ade, Diana Weishaar, Lily DeTaeye, Dan Padley Trio, Blake Shaw, the Savage Hearts and Charlotte Blu, and will conclude with Breitbach’s music video “As Above, So Below,” the title track from his upcoming album, which features 150 Iowa musicians, including Bo Ramsey, Bob Dorr and Dave Zollo.

As Breitbach puts it, “The album and the program are going to be the most ‘Iowa’ musical events ever.”
Loess Hills State Forest near Pisgah gives hikers plenty of room to roam the area’s steep ridges, prairies and woods. The latest attraction is Brent’s Trail, an 8-mile one-way trek through the scenic hills. Photo: Iowa Tourism Office


New in 2019, Brent’s Trail connects several pockets of public land in western Iowa's Loess Hills for an 8-mile hike (and that’s one-way). Named after Brent Olson, who worked as manager of Loess Hills State Forest and Preparation Canyon State Park before his death in 2016, the trail winds through the heart of the hills near Little Sioux. Considered a serious hike, Brent’s Trail weaves through native prairie, dense woods, savannas and steep hillsides, some with drops and then inclines of several hundred feet.

The undulating trail connects with Murray Hill Scenic Overlook to the north, where yucca and other native wildflowers color the hills in summer. The Loess Hills State Forest makes up a majority of the hike’s terrain (the four units in the preserve feature additional trekking options). The trail ends to the south at Gleason-Hubel Wildlife Area, also part of the state forest and a great spot for observing woodland birds.

Read about more of Iowa's Wild Hikes here.
A work from Joan Webster-Vore, who will be featured in the Sioux City Art Center's juried exhibition starting next weekend.
Photo: Joan Webster-Vore


Nine Midwest artists will be showcased at the Sioux City Art Center Selects exhibition, which opens with a reception at 5 p.m. May 21. The show is a "regional juried/curated exhibition with accompanying programing designed to create a meaningful experience for both the selected artists and the Art Center’s audiences," organizers say.

Artists include Jody Boyer (Council Bluffs), Lyn Corelle (Minneapolis), Nate Ditzler (Dubuque), Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez and Charley Friedman (Lincoln, Nebraska), Ann Marie McTaggart (Sioux City), Laura Nugent (Kansas City, Missouri), Bart Vargas (Omaha) and Joan Webster-Vore (Hudson).

The opening reception is free, but only 75 guests are allowed inside at a time. Masks and social distancing are required. From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on May 22, each artist will give a presentation about their works to an in-person audience. Only 50 attendees will be allowed, and registration is required.
Akwi Nji, a Cedar Rapids-based artist, creates through all kinds of mediums, including fabric, as seen above. She's one of the artists spotlighted in the upcoming Iowa Pop Art Market. Read our story on Nji from our ia magazine. Photo: Iowa Pop Art Market.


The 2021 Iowa Pop Art Market, hosted by the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, will take place 12-4 p.m. this Saturday and will feature the work of artists and creators across the state. There will also be a number of community-focused student projects, including murals, documentary films and interactive art installations.

Artists include Emma E. Walker, Garret Ficken, Jennifer Drinkwater and Akwi Nji, among others. Admission is free. Social distancing will be followed and masks will be required at all times. Find artist and vendor information here.
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