ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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The Alternating Currents Festival in downtown Davenport offers more than 100 free performances, film screenings and events. Photo: "Squonk"


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

They do things a bit differently in the Quad Cities. It’s one of the rare places where the Mississippi River flows west instead of south and east.

So you can expect a few surprises at the annual Alternating Currents Festival, which returns Aug. 19-22. The weekend offers more than 100 free performances, film screenings and events scattered among 20-plus venues in downtown Davenport.

A prog rock concert accompanied by house-sized, purple, inflatable puppets? Coming right up, in a show called “Squonk.”

A screening of “The Sandlot” at Modern Woodmen Park? You bet, thanks to the Quad Cities River Bandits.
A panel of local brewers discussing the future of craft beer? Sure, that too, with experts from Five Cities, Nerdspeak, Stompbox, Twin Span and Wake.

Not to be outdone, the Davenport Public Library is hosting a party to celebrate Iowa’s 175th Anniversary, coming up on Dec. 28. Visitors can see highlights from the library’s special collections of local and county history, make party hats from the State Historical Society of Iowa, assemble takeout boxes of Iowa charcuterie with help from Hy-Vee, and plenty more.

Find all the details online at
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The Iowa State Fair is back this year after being sidelined in 2020 due to the pandemic. Photo: Catch Des Moines


The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines begins today and runs through Aug. 22. Here are three ideas of what to do:

If you want to avoid intense crowds: COVID-19 cases are spiking once again, so if you want to enjoy the fun but keep your distance from others as much as possible, head there when the fairgrounds open at 7 a.m. There are also some lesser-visited spots around the grounds, including the barns on the east side or the Exhibition Center, which has plenty of seating and air conditioning.

If you're a foodie: Yes, there are hundreds of food options at the fair. But if you're looking for something tasty without much of a line, try lamb kabobs at the Sheep Barn on the south side of the fairgrounds. Or check out these cheese-filled bacon balls at Bacon Box along the Grand Concourse.

If you're an arts lover: The Cultural Center on the east side of the grounds will have exhibits set up throughout the building. Many of them are entered in the Iowa State Fair Fine Arts Show. There will also be several painters demonstrating how they create their work.

Find more information online.
Ballet Hispanico brings Latin culture to the stage in the form of upbeat dancing. They'll perform at Iowa State University's Stephens Auditorium on Oct. 17. Photo: Ballet Hispanico


One of Iowa's biggest and most popular venues will be back in action with live, in-person shows this fall. Iowa State University's Stephens Auditorium in Ames unveiled its 2021-22 season, which starts on Oct. 3 with Three Dog Night, a rock band whose performances span more than five decades. There will also be four Broadway shows: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (Jan 26, 2022), "Fiddler on the Roof" (Feb. 7, 2022), "South Pacific" (Feb. 17, 2022) and "Hairspray" (March 27, 2022).

Here are a few other shows that caught our eye:

Ballet Hispanico (Oct. 17): A renowned Latin dance group known for its innovative performances that bring Latino culture to life.

Russian National Orchestra (Feb. 18, 2022): This internationally touring orchestra has appeared in the music capitals of Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Velocity (March 24, 2022): James Devine, a Guinness World Record holder for "fastest feet in the world," leads this Irish dancing group, which puts on a fast-paced and edgy performance.

Find the full schedule here.

Fairfield's First Fridays Art Walk features art booths, food rucks, lawn games and live music. Check out a video of the event. Photo: Werner Elmker


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

If practice makes perfect, count on Fairfield to throw a pretty good party. They’ve been hosting the Fairfield First Fridays Art Walk every month except January for 19 years.

“I probably have the posters for every one of them,” says director Marla Brader. “There’s a Rubbermaid container in my storage unit that feels like it weighs 150 pounds.”

The shindig unfolds around the town square, with its eclectic galleries, shops and restaurants. Outside you’ll find art booths, food trucks, lawn games and live music in the gazebo.

On Sept. 3, Labor Day weekend kicks off with music by singer-songwriter Chad Elliott of Lamoni followed by an open-mic session filled with more music, poetry, stand-up comedy and whatever else Fairfielders of all ages want to share.

Fairfield is one of 13 Iowa Cultural and Entertainment Districts designated by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. But the monthly art walks are uniquely Fairfield—a mashup of small-town and international tastes, sights and sounds.

“Our tagline says, ‘Come celebrate creativity, culture and community,’ ” Brader says. “That’s what we’re all about.”
Art in the Park brings local and regional artists to downtown Elkader on Aug. 21-22.


One of northeast Iowa’s scenic gems, Elkader promises outdoor enthusiasts, antiques lovers and foodies with year-round fun. The town, which is sited on the Turkey River, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. Here are three reasons to visit.

Art in the Park: Aug. 21-22, a fine art juried festival converges upon downtown at Founder’s Park. Shop for paintings, glassware and more by local and regional artists at the annual event, which also features music and food.

Antiques Please: Located downtown, the Turkey River Mall is loaded with booths that sell a mix of collectibles for those on the thrill of the hunt. Find antlers, old books, vintage picnic baskets, pottery and more at excellent prices.

Outdoor Exploits: Hiking is a top option here any time of year. Head northeast about half an hour to hike Pike’s Peak or Effigy Mounds for treks amid the Mississippi River bluffs; head south to Backbone State Park for hikes to caves and Devil’s Backbone, a steep limestone ridge.
The Iowa Arts Festival in Iowa City will include performances and food from a wide range of cultures.
Photo: Iowa Arts Festival


The Iowa Arts Festival in downtown Iowa City, which runs from Friday to Sunday, is one of the last chances for an arts fix before we jump into fall. Enjoy the art fair, featuring 110 local and national artists, including emerging high school and college artists.

You can see live music on the main stage, with performers such as the Jayhawks, Wyatt Waddell, and Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Attendees will also get their pick of food vendors from a wide range of cultures. The event is free to attend. Find the full schedule online.
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