ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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MAY 28, 2020  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
A group of dedicated leaders helped restore a cluster of church buildings in Dubuque into a community center known as Steeple Square. Photo: Steeple Square & Heritage Works Inc.


By Emily Hammer
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Sometimes opportunity knocks. Other times, it slides in through the windows.

When a Dubuque parish moved out of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 2010, the community turned the cluster of church buildings into a community center known as Steeple Square.

In the process, they restored the old church’s stained-glass windows and trained a new generation of local artisans. They cleaned the old glass, replaced the lead that held the panels together, and also repaired the window frames, which had deteriorated from decades of exposure to the elements.

Project leaders estimate that Steeple Square has injected more than $13 million into the local economy since the project began in 2015. The former rectory is now a day care center. The old church school is now a mix of market-rate and low-income apartments. Neighbors are fixing up their own properties in the area.

The first German immigrants who built St. Mary’s are long gone, but the towering landmark they built still plays a big role in the community. Its redevelopment has restored more than bricks and mortar and glass.

Learn more about this Iowa Great Places project during the Preserve Iowa Summit online June 4-6.
Stone Creek Golf Club in Williamsburg has been named one of the best nine-hole golf courses in America.


Iowa boasts one of the largest numbers of nine-hole golf courses in the nation, providing all of the fun of a traditional 18-hole course with less time, space and expense. Here are a few we recommend checking out:

Pine Lake Country Club (Eldora): Cut from thick woods through rolling hills, the course has been described as one of the most scenic in Iowa. Fairways are watered and greens are small. Par is 35, with a top yardage of 2,850. As is typical of older courses, the emphasis is on accuracy over length. The finishing hole, No. 9 (par 4, 407 yards) is an Iowa Hall of Fame Hole.

Grinnell Gold and Country Club (Grinnell): The opening hole is a short par 4 of 278 yards from the back tee, but the par-35 course lengthens with long par 4s of 423, 394 and 474 yards, before finishing on a par-3 hold across a pond. Three sets of tees provide yardages of 3,059, 2850 and 2,418 yards. Most fairways are lined with mature trees.

Stone Creek Golf Club (Williamsburg): Named one of the 25 best nine-hole courses in America by Golf Digest Magazine, this nontraditional par-36 course has three each of par 3s, 4s and 5s. It plays across a rolling landscape that features three ponds and 27 sand bunkers. With four sets of tees, the course length varies from 2,386 to 3,417 yards. Greens are large, fast and undulating.
Clear Lake's Surf Ballroom has a rich history and has drawn many fans and festivals over the years.


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

If you think about it, Iowa’s music history is one long and eclectic playlist.

From Antonin Dvorak’s visit to Spillville in 1893 to Slipknot’s rowdy concerts in Des Moines, Iowa’s hills have always been alive with the sound of music. Think of Bix Beiderbecke in Davenport, Glenn Miller in Clarinda and the Everly Brothers in Shenandoah. Think of Andy Williams in Wall Lake and Greg Brown in Fairfield.

Some places, like Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom and Mason City’s Music Man Square, have capitalized on their music history to attract fans and festivals. In Walnut, the National Traditional Country Music Association produces radio and television programs at the Walnut Country Opera House.

Music “is a good way to connect with history,” says Elizabeth Gales, who will discuss how to preserve and promote local musical legacies during the State Historic Preservation Office’s annual Preserve Iowa Summit online June 4-6.

She recently helped map the Twin Cities music scene from the 1850s through the early 2000s, including the likes of Bob Dylan and Prince. She is familiar with Iowa hot spots, too, including the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Arnolds Park and the former Hi-Way Gardens in Stanwood, which hosted everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Lawrence Welk. Her father saw the Beach Boys play the Cattle Congress in Waterloo.

“Communities that are interested in doing this kind of research … can do some public outreach,” she says. “They’ll probably discover a lot of hidden treasures that people are just waiting to share.”
Maquoketa Caves State Park is the perfect introduction for beginner cave explorers.


Dark, cool, wet and tight—exploring some caves requires a firm grip on emotions, a steely resolve and confidence in your skills. Others have vast open chambers and underground streams that you can travel by boat. You'll find it all in the startling underworld of Iowa.

For many, caves are new worlds to explore, puzzles to solve. For newcomers, the 13 caves of Maquoketa Caves State Park (located about 6 miles northwest of Maquoketa) offer a perfect introduction. You can wander lighted walkways in the 1,100-foot Dancehall Cave, where locals held dances in years gone by. Or wriggle your way through others with intriguing names like Hernando's Hideaway, Shinbone, Dug Out and Rainy Day. You'll want flashlights, old clothes and a helmet for some.

For serious cavers, the rock star of Midwest caves, Coldwater Caves, traverses almost 20 miles under farm fields in northeast Winneshiek County, along the northern edge of Iowa. Discovered in the 1960s by swimmers exploring the bottom of a spring, the cave varies from mere cracks to cavernous—often flooding, as the name suggests, with dangerous cold water. Located under private land, it has two man-made entries now, allowing explorers with permission to descend more than 100 feet on ladders to the bottom of the world.
The rock band Three Dog Night is coming to Sioux City's Orpheum Theatre on Oct. 3.


While large gatherings are still prohibited, we remain hopeful that some of the concerts planned for the fall will take place. Here are a few that are currently scheduled:

  • Sept. 24: Luke Bryan, Morgan Wallen and Caylee Hammack at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines
  • Sept. 27: Kansas at Adler Theatre in Davenport
  • Sept. 28: Cher at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines
  • Sept. 29: Russian String Orchestra at Stephens Auditorium in Ames
  • Oct. 3: Three Dog Night at Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City
  • Oct. 8: Cole Swindell at Five Flags Center in Dubuque
  • Oct. 17: Foreigner at Bridge View Center in Ottumwa
  • Nov. 8: Black Jacket Symphony: Led Zepplin IV at Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids
  • Dec. 2: Jonny Lang at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines

You can find a full list of Iowa concerts, ticket information and updates at

Pole bean plants climb like vines, growing vertically and requiring less land area. Photo: Duane Tinkey


By Mike Kilen

When Luke Kapayou’s corn breaks the Meskwaki Settlement soil, hundreds of years of his family’s history surface as well.

“That is just amazing, how old these seeds are,” he says. “I got them from my mother in the early 1990s, and I put them together with the seeds of my wife’s brother, so now it’s like a family variety.”

The corn is a part of his family, and for many others on this settlement in Tama County the corn is like their own long-lost family member. A project of Meskwaki Agriculture and Food Sovereignty is helping them reconnect with an ancient history of growing indigenous foods from the seeds of their ancestors.

“I love being out in the garden growing,” says Kapayou, 58, who has lived on the settlement most his life. “I enjoy deciding what seeds to grow, getting the ground ready and having the family help to cultivate and harvest them.”

Read the rest of the story in ia magazine.
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