ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
ChopTalk It's about more than just bacon

Iowans love their bacon, yet few know about pig farming. Laurie Johns connects you to Iowa pig farmers, the lives they live, the challenges they face and the impact on us all.
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Soul Book Nook opened last fall in downtown Waterloo with the mission of "building historical legacies," owner Amber Collins says. Photo: Soul Book Nook


Writer: Luke Manderfeld

Amber Collins is passionate about history. And as the owner of what may be Iowa's first Black-owned bookstore, Soul Book Nook in Waterloo, Collins believes literature plays a vital role in education. During Black History Month, Collins has used the store's Facebook page to share little-told stories of Black leaders throughout time.

"We believe it's important for our viewers and our community to read more history about Black Americans," Collins says.

To learn more about Black history, Collins suggests the following books:

"Caste" by Isabel Wilkerson: This book identifies racial hierarchy in America, comparing it to other caste systems throughout history. "[Wilkerson] presents it so dynamically ... and gives you an idea of the whole system that was meant to keep a culture—a race of peopleat the bottom," Collins says.

"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson: A historical study of the great migration, the movement of Black Americans from the South into the Midwest, Northeast and West in the 20th century.

"Ida B. the Queen" by Michelle Duster: Written by Ida B. Wells' great-granddaughter, this book is a look at the life of the civil rights leader.

"Creating the Black Utopia of Buxton, Iowa" by Rachelle Chase: This tells the story of one of the state's earliest integrated towns, with Black and white people living side by side as early as 1900. "It gives you an image of an early integrated mining town," Collins says.

You can check out these books and others on Soul Book Nook's website. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 110 E. Fourth St. in downtown Waterloo.
Rose Frantzen is creating a mural for Iowa State University's Gerdin Business Building, which will be unveiled later this year. Photo: Ivy College of Business


Iowa artist Rose Frantzen will speak about her recent works, creative process and more at Iowa State University's Gerdin Business Building at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 4. The speech is timely, as one of her murals will be installed later this year in the recently added gallery in the building.

Frantzen is from Maquoketa and gained international acclaim for her oil paintings and depictions of landscapes, still lifes and figurative works. If you're interested in other Frantzen creations, check out her exhibition, "Perceptions of Identity: Paintings by Rose Frantzen," which is on display in Iowa State's Morrill Hall through July 30. Admission is free, with a recommended donation of $8.

Frantzen's speech will have limited audience capacity and requires pre-registration. To register, click here.
Lincoln Savings Bank – The making of a uniquely Iowan video series

Between coffee chats at a handful of Des Moines coffee shops, the plan began to take shape in late 2019 and into early 2020. Discussions centered on an idea for a video series telling the rich stories of Lincoln Savings Bank, which was created more than a century ago in small-town Lincoln, Iowa, with funny, spirited and informative tones. Needless to say, this was unique to the financial services industry.
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Emmy-nominated singer Michael Londra will perform virtually as a part of Stephens Auditorium's livestream series.


Even during the pandemic, venues across the state have found ways to make music for an online audience. Here are a few places to put on your watch list when you're craving live entertainment.

Arts Iowa: The University of Iowa has plenty of live music on the docket for the next few weeks. It begins tomorrow, with "Face Self / Face Truth," which will mix music, performing arts and more to tackle social injustice. Additional concerts are scheduled through the beginning of April.

Noce: The Des Moines jazz club has been one of the best in the state at putting top-tier music online. You can check out every performance via stream on Noce's YouTube page. This weekend, the venue will host a couple of shows, including Max Wellman and his septet, featuring Damani Phillips, a professor at the University of Iowa.

Stephens Auditorium: Iowa State University's performing arts venue has gone global with its music, broadcasting international artists to its audiences. Now through March 1 is Ballet Hispanico, a renowned Latino dance group, which can be viewed virtually for $5. Up next is Ireland With Michael, featuring Irish singer Michael Londra, beginning March 17.
Beaconsfield native Peggy Whitson wore this flight suit aboard the International Space Station in 2002 and later donated it to the State Historical Museum of Iowa.


Writer: Jeff Morgan
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

While Iowa marks its 175th anniversary this year, the State Historical Society of Iowa is taking a deeper dive into the past during Iowa History Month, beginning March 1.

The monthlong celebration, as proclaimed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, includes a new museum exhibition, a statewide book club, at-home activities for children and families, and an array of online presentations all about Iowa history.

This is “a time to learn more about the people, places and points of pride that helped define our state,” says Susan Kloewer, who leads the society. “Every Iowa family, community and county has contributed to our collective history, and Iowa History Month is a time to celebrate these connections.”

The new exhibition, “Iowa’s People & Places," opens March 5 at the State Historical Museum of Iowa and explores more than 13,000 years of history with artifacts covering a broad range of experiences. The mix of artifacts represents a mosaic of Iowa’s cultural diversity, including stone tools made by some of Iowa’s earliest inhabitants, handcrafted Meskwaki beadwork, an embroidered story cloth made by a Hmong immigrant, and several items from the life and high-flying career of astronaut Peggy Whitson.

The State Historical Society of Iowa also has organized a new Iowa History Book Club, which kicks off March 11 with a discussion about “Iowa: The Middle Land,” by the legendary historian Dorothy Schwieder. Additional book club discussions are scheduled quarterly throughout the year.

Find the full schedule of events online.



Dubuque is asking for the public's help in beautifying its bus shelters. This campaign, called Art En Route, asks community members to fill out a coloring sheet by March 15 and share ideas for the 14 structures throughout the city, informing a call for mural artists in the spring.

Art En Route is run through the city of Dubuque’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Green Dubuque and funded by a $25,000 national grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies' Asphalt Art Initiative. There were 220 communities nationwide that applied for the program. Just 16 were approved, and Dubuque is the only one in Iowa.

Some teenagers and young adults who send submissions may also be selected for short-term artist mentorship opportunities for the creation of sidewalk murals this summer. Learn more about Dubuque's project here.
This robot allows virtual tours at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

All the virtual activities that have popped up online over the last year—concerts, tours, how-to classes—help people feel connected when they’re physically apart. That's especially good news for cancer patients, whose immune systems were compromised even before COVID-19.

For more than a decade, a Quad Cities nonprofit called the Living Proof Exhibit has helped cancer patients, survivors and caregivers tap into the healing power of the arts through workshops and exhibits. More recently, the group has jumped on the Zoom boom and enlisted local artists to create free virtual experiences for cancer patients as well as the general public.

“Our mission is to reduce the stress associated with cancer,” says Pamela Crouch, the nonprofit’s executive director. “Our focus has been on people affected by cancer, but when you think about it, everyone in the last year has experienced heightened levels of stress.”

On the Living Proof Exhibit’s website and YouTube channel, you can watch a performance by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, tour the Figge Art Museum or take a virtual stroll through the Quad City Botanical Center. The nonprofit has also partnered with other arts organizations in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids.

“I’m so impressed with what they’re doing,” Crouch says. “This year, all of us have had to almost completely reinvent ourselves. And who can do that better than creative people?”

Now her team is distributing bookmarks printed with a QR code that enables people to access all the online content with a simple swipe of a smartphone. The nonprofit team hopes more people will take advantage of it, even after the pandemic ends.

“There are no limits now,” Crouch says. “These online programs are really going to open up the arts to anyone who might be housebound.”

With support from the Iowa Arts Council and others, the Living Proof Exhibit has commissioned the Quad Cities composer Jacob Bancks to create an opera based on interviews with local cancer survivors and caregivers. Its premiere with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra has been postponed to February 2022.

Even in a virtual world, some in-person events are worth the wait.
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