ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Choptalk talks with Iowa pig farmers who are paying it forward in their communities!

Meet the Lundells fire fighters, coaches, animal caretakers! Two generations of pig farmers that aren't just raising pigs, but also growing Iowa communities.

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Drumline Live's stop at Stephens Auditorium promises riveting rhythms, bold beats and ear-grabbing energy. Photography courtesy of Drumline Live.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

When Drumline Live struts into Ames for a Jan. 29 show at Stephens Auditorium, don’t be surprised if they push the tempo.

“We’re just so anxious to get back onstage,” the group’s founder, Don Roberts, says. They’re performing again after nearly two years of quiet.

And they don’t really do “quiet.” Their thumping drum riffs and choreographed routines grew out of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) marching band tradition, but “nothing like it exists onstage,” Roberts says. “Nothing even close.”

Roberts was directing a high school band in Georgia when he was invited to write and direct the drills in the 2002 movie “Drumline.” Its success prompted him to create Drumline Live, which has toured the United States, Japan and Korea. His bands have marched at the Olympics, at the Super Bowl, and right into the history books during Beyonce’s epic 2018 concert at Coachella.

“I used to be ‘that guy from the movie,’ ” Roberts says. “Now we’re ‘that band from Coachella.’ ”

Drumline Live’s upcoming show is part of the performing arts series at Stephens Auditorium, which received Iowa Arts Council support to encourage Iowans to reengage, reimagine and reconnect with arts and culture.

A celebration of Bald Eagles will take place in southeast Iowa this weekend, but the birds can be observed across the state. Photography courtesy of Iowa DNR.


Winter is nesting season for bald eagles and an excellent time to spot the majestic birds in their natural habitats. The 38th Annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Days will take place in Keokuk (Jan. 15) and Montrose (Jan. 16) this weekend, with family-friendly activities and opportunities to view eagles with the help of trained spotters. The celebration will feature programs presented by the World Bird Sanctuary as well as other learning seminars, food and vendors.

If you spot a bald eagle nest in the state, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources invites you to report its location to a statewide database. Through the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program, you can also formally "adopt" the nest. Learn more about the species and find eagle-watching etiquette and database information here.
Attend a watch party Saturday, Jan. 29, at FilmScene at the Chauncey in Iowa City.


Writer: Jeff Morgan
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

All the films in “The Film Lounge” started in Iowa. But where they’ll go next, who knows? One showing this year-- a five-minute documentary called “Frozen Out” by University of Iowa student Hao Zhou and Iowa City filmmaker Tyler Hill--is now in the running to win an Oscar in March for the year’s Best Live Action Short Film.

Now in its sixth season, “The Film Lounge” is an annual short-film showcase that celebrates the work of Iowa filmmakers, highlights the state’s vibrant film communities and explores the art of filmmaking. It’s produced by Iowa PBS in partnership with the Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, whose experts curate each year’s entries based on their technical and artistic merit.

Film fans can see both new hourlong episodes of “The Film Lounge” at a watch party on Jan. 29 at FilmScene in Iowa City or on Iowa PBS at 9 p.m. Jan. 31 (Episode 601) and 9 p.m. Feb. 7 (Episode 602). Each episode also will stream at the same times on Facebook, where viewers can interact with contributing filmmakers.

Hundreds of volunteers are needed for an upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service event at the UNI-Dome. Photography courtesy of Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley.


Looking for a way to give back? Many communities throughout Iowa have planned activities for Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service to honor the legacy of the civil rights leader through volunteerism.

On Monday, Jan. 17, the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and the University of Northern Iowa’s Office of Community Engagement will host a "Backpackin’ the Dome!" event. Volunteers are needed to help package food at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls for the local BackPack program, which serves 4,100 children at 145 schools across northeast Iowa each month. Before school lets out for the weekend, students receive assembled kid-friendly meals and snacks that fit in their school bags.

With slots for 800 volunteers, nearly 40,000 backpacks are planned to be prepared. Register here.

Find local volunteer opportunities that fit your skills by searching Volunteer Iowa’s statewide database of volunteer opportunities, Get Connected.
Amber Collins opened Soul Book Nook with the belief that “books could bring us together.” Photography courtesy of Experience Waterloo.


Writer: Linh Ta

A version of this story appears in our 2022 ia magazine issue, which you can read in full here.

We caught up with Amber Collins, owner of the Waterloo-based Soul Book Nook, to see what’s on her reading list. She tells us: "Books I'm reading are 'Caste' by Isabel Wilkerson; 'I’m Not Every Woman: Embracing the Woman God Created You To Be' by Barbara Bryant; 'Haikus for the Soul' by Robin Lynn Harris, and 'To Light Their Way: A Collection of Prayers and Liturgies for Parents' by local Iowa author Kayla Craig."

Collins started the store as a way to not only share her love of books but also to celebrate the Black American experience during a period of reckoning in the summer of 2020.

“I felt that books could bring us together and also could create more awareness that African Americans have contributed so much in history,” Collins says. “They have been poets and historians and scientists and biologists, and books were out there that could reflect that.”

Read the full story here.
What You Need to Know About Buy Now, Pay Later

Take a look at the pros and cons of the popular Buy Now, Pay Later trend so you can make informed decisions about when shopping online or making big purchases.

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SoulGood Southern Diner, at 3100 Sixth St. S.W. in Cedar Rapids, was among the new restaurants to open in 2021. Photography courtesy of SoulGood Southern Diner.


Writer: Karla Walsh

No need to hop on a plane to cozy up to a plate of scratch-made Southern comfort food. Since last January, SoulGood Southern Diner in Cedar Rapids is the place to be when you’re in the mood for fried chicken, fish, cornbread and collard greens, or if you time it right, meatloaf or ribs (both daily specials). For a flavor buffet, make a meal of the sides. Options include silky sweet potatoes, creamy mac and cheese, and holiday-worthy cornbread dressing. Be sure to save room for a cup of peach cobbler for dessert (

Read our full ia magazine roundup of five new restaurants to try here.
WHAT INITIATIVES HAS YOUR COMPANY DONE TO COMBAT HUNGER AND FOOD INSECURITY? Each year we invite our case managers nationwide to join us in our annual "Hunger Challenge" initiative. We ask them to identify individuals in their communities who are struggling with food insecurity and who may not qualify or have access to a nutrition program through a health plan or community organization. If we find the individual is eligible for assistance, we work with the case manager to get them set up on a program. If not, we donate a cooler of meals to those individuals while they work with their support network to find a more long-term solution. We are happy to provide thousands of meals to those who may otherwise go without.

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Organizing can be a good way to give back, like getting a group together to cook food for those in need.


Writer: Karla Walsh

Kick off the year by helping stop food insecurity. Here's a list of ways you can make a difference for your neighbors:

Organize. At its core, organizing starts with a conversation and grows from there, says Monika Owczarski, owner of Sweet Tooth Farm in Des Moines. She suggests starting in your own neighborhood to find any hunger gaps that you can help fill. You might consider hosting a canned food drive or fresh produce drive for food banks so it can be distributed safely to the food bank network. Find one near you at

Donate. From Hunger-Free Polk County to Meals From the Heartland, there are dozens of charities you can support financially—and possibly ask your employer to match. For a list of organizations, visit

Advocate. The Iowa Hunger Coalition advocates for policies that work to keep Iowans fed. Sign up for email updates and action alerts, or become an individual or organizational member of the Iowa Hunger Coalition at

Read our full story with five ways you can help fight food insecurity here.

Iowa Stops Hunger is a Business Publications Corp. initiative to raise awareness of hunger in Iowa and inspire action to combat it.

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