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ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
JUNE 25, 2020  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
 
Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
 
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Des Moines artist Robert Moore is projecting Black Lives Matter images on silos as a reminder that racial injustice isn't limited to big cities.

EXPLORING 'BLACK LIVES MATTER' IN RURAL IOWA

By Michael Morain
Department of Cultural Affairs

If you’d driven down an out-of-the-way Dallas County road one night a few weeks ago, you would have seen a cluster of grain silos lit up like a drive-in movie screen. There, glowing in the darkness, was a montage of African American faces flashing across the words “Black Lives Matter”—a reminder that the renewed call for racial justice echoes beyond the big cities in the news.

“It was like projecting a Bat Signal for Black Lives Matter out in rural Iowa,” says the project’s creator, the Des Moines artist Robert Moore. “It was a bit unsettling. We didn’t know how people would respond.”

At one point, a car pulled off the road and a woman stepped out. She approached Moore near the projector and told him how much the video meant to her as the mother of a biracial son in a town where not many people looked like him.

“She started crying,” says Moore, who is also biracial. “She didn’t realize she was making me cry, too, because I knew the experience she was describing.”

Moore created the project he calls “Harvesting Humanity” in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. He assembled some gear, recruited friends to help and asked the owner’s permission to use the silos.

Encouraged by the response to photos he posted on Instagram, he is planning a couple of similar projects in the next few weeks. He hopes to project an LGBTQ video this weekend, during Pride month, in Des Moines’ East Village and another Black Lives Matter video on July 4 in downtown Iowa City. That event was postponed from last Friday’s Juneteenth festivities due to worries about rain.

But those clouds had a silver lining.

As Moore puts it, “There’s some beauty and irony about moving it from Black Independence Day to the Fourth of July.”
 
 
A new program is connecting Iowa beef producers with food-insecure Iowans. Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

'BEEF UP IOWA' CONNECTS IOWANS TO FOOD

Beef Up Iowa, a new statewide initiative, was launched last week with the goal of connecting Iowa beef producers with food-insecure Iowans. Through the program, students and staff at Iowa State University will process cattle from Iowa beef producers who have limited processing options due to COVID-19.

The meat will be distributed to food bank and food pantry programs across the state. The initial cattle for Beef Up Iowa will be sourced from Iowa 4-H and FFA members.

“From family farms to the grocery store shelves, to our family’s dinner table, our entire food supply chain has been impacted by COVID-19,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a release. “Beef Up Iowa brings high quality, nutritious beef to families in need of food security."

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, who heads the Feeding Iowans Task Force, mentioned Beef Up Iowa in a video shown at Tuesday's dsm July/August virtual unveiling event, where Business Publications Corp.the publisher of ia, dsm and the Business Recordannounced a companywide initiative called Iowa Stops Hunger.

"As we face the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, too many people across our state don't know where to turn for their next meal," Gregg said. "No Iowan should ever have to worry where their next meal comes from. And we're committed to making that proposition a reality."

Beef Up Iowa will  begin when the first cattle are delivered on July 1. Processing will continue through the summer and for as long as funds remain. The beef will be distributed through the Iowa Food Bank Association and the six Iowa food banks that service the state.
 
 
A photo of Art on the River, which was featured in the first issue of Jessica Pfohl Paisley's Dubuque fashion magazine, PS Styled. Photo: Jessica Pfohl Paisley

EMERGENCY GRANTS HELP IOWA ARTISTS

By Michael Morain
Department of Cultural Affairs

They say necessity is the mother of invention. But sometimes a little money helps, too.

When the coronavirus emptied out galleries, theaters and concert halls this spring, 156 Iowa artists each received a $1,000 emergency grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to help make ends meet until they could find other forms of revenue or public assistance. The artists could use the grants to cover basic expenses, including food and rent, but some spun their dollars into new projects.

Lovar Kidd, a dance instructor and freelance choreographer in Cedar Rapids, watched most of his work disappear.

But a fresh idea struck him after he marched in a Black Lives Matter protest with a sign that explained his identity and outlook: “50 percent black, 50 percent white, 100 percent over racism.” When his brother joked that Kidd should print that on a T-shirt, that’s exactly what he did.

He used a portion of his grant to start an online T-shirt business—100percentoverracism.com—and is donating some of the proceeds to the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids.

Jessica Pfohl Paisley, who publishes a Dubuque fashion magazine called PS Styled, had just printed 10,000 copies of its third issue when the pandemic put things on hold.

She used the grant to pay the printer, while she reworked her business model. Now, she plans to print each issue’s cover and insert it in partner publications, while shifting most the content online. She is giving a portion of the subscription revenue to local businesses, salons and nonprofits.

Susan Woodford, a metal sculptor in Shenandoah, had just opened a studio at the new Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center in Council Bluffs when the pandemic shut it down. Across the country, seven galleries that sell her work closed, too.

She used her grant to create an online contest to encourage K-8 students to design sculptures. Every two weeks, she fabricates whichever design wins the most online votes and ships the sculpture to the young designer.

The grant also allowed Woodford to take care of her mother, who is recovering from cancer. Together, they make lilies out of copper donated from a local roofing company and deliver them to health care providers and other essential workers. Anyone can nominate someone to receive a lily, free of charge.

 
 
Rapid Creek Cidery in Iowa City has patio seating and has recently reopened. It's a perfect spot to check out on a road trip.

FOOD WITH A FOCUS ON HAPPY

Writer: Wini Moranville

The paved country road turns to gravel just past the entrance to the Rapid Creek Cidery in Iowa City. The first thing that comes into view is the massive gabled-roof structure that’s home to the Cidery’s restaurant and event center. Made from the rough-hewn wood of two century-old barns and perched on a grassy slope amid an apple orchard and woodlands, the seemingly weathered building promises …

Promises what, exactly? What kind of food should I find within the walls of this rustic yet magnificent structure that’s born of Iowa’s rural heritage, yet foretells a hopeful future? The building’s size and stature feel dashing and confident, but there’s something about a barn that will always feel humble, too.

The chef is Matt Steigerwald. Well known to Iowa food lovers, this North Carolina native opened the Lincoln Cafe in Mount Vernon in 2001. During his 12 years at the cafe, Steigerwald snagged three James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef Midwest and became known for his head-turning cuisine.

But that was then, this is now. Owner Katie Goering opened Rapid Creek Cidery in 2017 with the goal of bringing people together for life’s celebrations—weddings, birthdays and other milestones large and small. Intricate, high-end food would feel disconnected to the relaxed and convivial vibe of the venue and its setting. Indeed, when Steigerwald spoke with Goering about taking on the role of chef, he was told they did not want fussy food.

He was glad to hear it.
“I’d been in high-end food all my life,” he says. “The older I got, the more I really just wanted to host great dinner parties. The fact that the restaurant is so big and open really lends itself to a feeling of community, of people getting together to celebrate just that: being together.”

Read more about the restaurant in this feature from ia magazine.
 
 
Backbone State Park is one of Iowa's oldest state parks. Photo: Travel Iowa

EXPLORE IOWA'S PARKS WITH NEW 'PASSPORT'

This summer has already been defined by social distancing, and Iowa's state parks are a natural getaway. Even more special, this year marks the 100-year anniversary of Iowa's state park system, which encompasses 83 parks and recreation areas.

To commemorate the anniversary, Travel Iowa has launched the free Iowa State Park Passport online for people to track and explore the state's natural beauties. Individuals can earn prizes and enjoy the outdoors. The first 800 pass holders to visit three separate parks earn an Iowa State Parks T-shirt. And the first 100 pass holders to visit 10 parks earn a State Parks Art Print from Bozz Prints, a West Des Moines-based shop specializing in posters, prints and T-shirts. Every new check-in counts as an entry to the grand prize giveaway, which is a two-night cabin stay at Honey Creek Resort with water park passes and golf vouchers.

To sign up, visit the Travel Iowa website and register. There are several state parks around Central Iowa you can visit this weekend, including Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park in Carlisle and Big Creek State Park in Polk City.
 
 
A view looking north from the Blackhawk Bridge near Lansing shows a marina on what is locally called Big Lake but is actually a backwater of the main channel of the Mississippi River. Photo: Bob Modersohn

DRIFTLESS AREA DRAWS OUTDOOR LOVERS

Writer: Ellen Modersohn

Leaning on my front deck railing last spring, watching the last of the winter ice floes drift down the Mississippi River, I saw a large bird lift off from an island straight ahead. The American bald eagle, a common sight here in northeast Iowa, gained altitude heading my way, changed course slightly, and reflected the sun off its white head and tail feathers.


Behind the eagle, a long line of American white pelicans wound along, heading north. They flew single file, their own feathers bright against the dark bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the river, a thousand-foot kite tail in a lazy breeze.

Hundreds of bird and wildlife species live in or pass through the Mississippi Flyway, a main avian migration route that stretches the length of the United States. Inside the flyway, this section of the state is also part of the Driftless Area, a landscape unlike any other in Iowa.

Bird-watching is just one of the dozens of outdoor activities that draw people to the Driftless, which comprises parts of northeast Iowa, southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin.

Read the rest of this story in ia magazine.
 
 
 
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