ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Iowa pig farmers learn how to better connect with people who don't live on the farm.

The Iowa Pork Producers' Leadership Academy teaches pig farmers how to better communicate, connect and build trust within their communities.

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Fiber artist John Ravet works in his studio at Mainframe Arts, where he creates unique pieces using premium materials. Photographs: Duane Tinkey (left) and Al Feliciano (right).


Step into John Ravet’s kite-shaped third-floor artist’s studio in Des Moines and let the layers of texture draw you in. Mannequin busts modeling hand-knit and woven shawls are on display across from the loom on which one-of-a-kind pieces are fabricated. Stacked baskets conceal high-end fibers awaiting the spotlight.

One of the great joys of working with fibers—whether spinning, knitting, crocheting or weaving—is the basic ease of these crafts,” Ravet says. “A few hours, inspiring materials, simple tools, and a bit of patience are all that’s needed to begin.”

Ravet, who was recently featured in dsm magazine, says he marks his calendar for Heartland Fiberpalooza, which is happening this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Winterset. The event will feature vendors selling hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn and related goods, as well as classes and demonstrations.

“Of all the fiber festivals I’ve attended, Fiberpalooza is among the most accessible … and the most charming,” he says. “I keep several yarns and fibers I’ve purchased there in a safe deposit box—not because they were expensive, but because they’re irreplaceable.”
Explore the process of maple sugaring at a Cedar Rapids-area festival. Photograph: Indian Creek Nature Center.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

No offense to cheerfully chirping robins, but the most anticipated sound of spring in Cedar Rapids is the sweet drip … drip … drip of maple sap being collected at the Indian Creek Nature Center. Staff members there have tapped about 100 trees this year to yield the 600-some gallons of sap they’ll boil down to 15 gallons of syrup for the annual Maple Syrup Festival this weekend, March 26 and 27.

Senior naturalist Emily Roediger says the sap has been flowing during the past four to six weeks, the “short and sweet” season when daytime and nighttime temperatures bounce above and below freezing. The 2020 derecho toppled some big maples, but the team found others on the 500-acre property that was first settled in1849.

Tour the maple sugar house to see—and smell—the big tanks where the magic happens. You can also learn how American Indians and pioneers made syrup with labor-intensive techniques that will help you appreciate the resulting product you drizzle over your pancakes at the main lodge.

The eco-friendly lodge, known as the Amazing Space, was built in 2016 with support from an Iowa Great Places grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affair and annually attracts thousands of visitors who enjoy the surrounding woods and prairie. And, of course, the robins.
Lacey-Keosauqua State Park in southeast Iowa boasts1,653 acres, including a stretch of the Des Moines River. Photograph: Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


Spot spring ephemerals at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, along picturesque trails that traverse 1,653 acres of hills, bluffs and valleys. Meander along the Des Moines River at this southwest Iowa site after the melt; "Keosauqua" is a Native American term meaning "the stream bearing a floating mass of snow, slush or ice." Or paddle on the picturesque 30-acre lake, which features a historical beach house lodge and offers a sandy area for swimmers and sunbathers.

Visitors will find both Indigenous and pioneer history, as well as a collection of Civilian Conservation Corps structures, at the park, which is the second-oldest in the state. A series of 19 burial mounds built by an ancient group of Woodland Culture Indians is situated along a peaceful overlook in the northwest section. And Ely Ford, now a beautiful picnic and trail area, was once a river crossing point on the Mormon trek westward. This site is now a component of the Mormon Pioneer Trail.

There is so much to explore that you just might want to stay overnight. Six rustic-modern family cabins take accommodations a notch above tent camping, with indoor cooking, flushing restrooms, and shower amenities. Learn more and find cabin rental information here.
"Hairspray" stops at Stephens Auditorium in Ames on Sunday, March 27. Photograph: Hairspray on Tour.


Live performances are bouncing back, and we're already bopping to some of the Broadway hits and big names on the horizon this spring:

  • There's still time to catch Tony Award-winning "Hadestown," a "haunting and hopeful theatrical experience" that intertwines two mythic tales on a hell-raising journey to the underworld and back. It's at the Civic Center in Des Moines through Sunday as part of the Willis Broadway Series. Learn more and find tickets here.

  • "Hairspray" stops at Stephens Auditorium in Ames on Sunday, bringing the beloved Tracy Turnblad and the sounds of 1960s Baltimore to prove you truly can't stop the beat. Learn more and find tickets here.

  • Hancher will host "The Band's Visit," winner of the 2018 Tony Award winner for Best Musical (along with nine additional Tonys) in Iowa City April 6. Set in a town off the beaten path, the story chronicles how a band of lost musicians bring the place to life in unexpected ways. Learn more and find tickets here.

  • Fans of "Hamilton" have a shot at seeing the smash-hit story of America onstage again at the Civic Center in Des Moines May 17 through June 5. Learn more and find tickets here.
Hospitality is a cornerstone of the "Take a Bite" experiences in April. Photograph: Amana Colonies


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Pack your appetite: The Amana Colonies, which retain the flavor of early German settlers, are hosting a food festival April 8-10. The folks at Iowa’s tastiest National Historic Landmark won an Iowa Tourism Award for the annual Take a Bite weekend in 2019 and have now raised the wunderbar.

Buy a $5 passport at the visitors’ center and stroll the streets to sample cherry cream-cheese streusel bread, smoked meats, craft beer and plenty more. On Friday the Amana Heritage Society will sell carryout dinners that include beef tongue, crumbed potatoes and cooked horseradish. The Ox Yoke Inn and Millstream Brau Haus will serve multicourse dinners on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

If you really want to dig in, go ahead and make some food yourself. There’s a beer-pretzel workshop, a German goulash demo, even a foraging class. Take a hike with local naturalist and chef Sean Curry, who will cook up whatever the group brings back from the wilds. Guten Appetit!
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History Lesson Lunches connect the Wallaces' publication and farm produce; the events are held at the Wallace Farm near Orient. Photograph: Wallace Centers of Iowa.


Can you picture yourself preferring a team of horses to a new car? Or experiencing a hot Iowa summer without the indulgence of an ice cream cone? Believe it or not, some improvements that we couldn't live without today weren't popular with everyone in the early 20th century.

A new series of "History Lesson Lunches" hosted by Wallace Centers of Iowa will enliven a farm-to-table dining experience with interesting agricultural stories pulled from the pages of Wallaces' Farmer.
Edited from 1895 to 1933 by three generations of Wallaces, the publication was an essential resource for farm families across Iowa and the Midwest.

History Lesson Lunches make the connection between the Wallaces' work of helping farm families succeed and the farmland itself. Scheduled throughout the year, nearly all the fruits and vegetables featured on the lunch menus are grown at the Wallace Farm. Hosted 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 13 at the Wallace Farm in rural Orient, the program will include excerpts from reader letters and editorials that will prompt reminiscences and discussions around your table. Learn more and make reservations here.
Iowa City hosts the Mission Creek Festival April 7-9 at locations throughout town, including the Englert Theatre and Gabe's. Photograph: Devin Smith.

Writer: Hailey Allen

Mission Creek Festival will return this year with live, in-person events to showcase artists and writers from Iowa  and beyond. The annual three-day festival will host performances throughout Iowa City’s lively downtown April 7-9.

There will be musical performances from Iowa artists such as Good Morning Midnight, and from popular headliners including Beach Bunny and Soccer Mommy. The schedule also includes readings from a variety of writers and poets, a literary magazine book fair, a poetry workshop, experimental music performances, and panel-style conversations with a wide array of creative professionals. View the lineup of appearances and events on the Mission Creek Festival website.

While some events are free and open to the public, others require a Mission Creek Festival pass, which can be purchased here. They offer individual day passes, general admission and members passes.
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