Art, Music and Shopping This Winter
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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Nook & Nest in downtown Ames is a carefully curated collection of home decor, tableware, bedding, stationery and other home and lifestyle products. Owner Mindy Bergstrom opened the store in 2019 with a goal of providing a cozy, welcoming shopping experience. Photo: Duane Tinkey.

Ames Indie Shops Abound for Holiday Shopping

This story originally appeared in our 2022
ia magazine. Read it here.

Historic downtown Ames is known for some of its quintessential indie shops—Cook’s Emporium, the Octagon Center for the Arts, Wheatsfield Grocery—but there’s a new crop of local stores worth exploring.

Z.W. Mercantile: This sustainable, eco-friendly general store promotes zero-waste products. The idea is to eliminate single-use items, says shop owner Mindy Bergstrom, with a bulk “filling station” and reusable replacements for disposable cleaning and beauty products. Bergstrom also owns Nook & Nest next door.

Nook & Nest: Take a quick glance around the main space and you’ll find modern furniture, comfy pillows, colorful vases, thoughtfully chosen kitchen textiles and dishes, floral pottery, handcrafted jewelry, clothing items, and gifts for baby. In the next room, there’s a generous selection of whimsical greeting cards, journals, printed writing paper and notebooks from brands such as Kate Spade, plus tote bags, mugs, pens, games and more.

Dog-Eared Books: Owners Amanda Lepper and Ellyn Grimm operate with the philosophy that “books are meant to be loved”—and dog-eared books show they have been loved a lot. With its ever-present shop dog, Lovie (a golden retriever), the bookshop has already become a gathering place for Ames residents and Iowa State University students, with nooks for reading, a doghouse-themed hidey-hole for kids, vintage seating from an old elementary school—and, of course, books. Add a selection of coffee, pastries, beer and wine, and you have an inviting space in which to share the love of reading and community.
Located in downtown Dubuque, Hotel Julien is hosting a New Year’s celebration full of fun, with three packages (including one with spa services). Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Julien.

Celebrate the New Year at Hotel Julien in Dubuque

Looking to get away to kick off 2023 but not wanting to fly or drive out of state? Hotel Julien, located in the heart of Dubuque, just might offer the perfect getaway to start off the new year with a bang.

The hotel is offering three packages, starting at $399 per couple. All three deals include an overnight in an executive room, which include pillow-top mattresses, plush bathrobes and spa bath products for a little in-room pampering. The deals also feature a bottle of bubbly at check-in, New Year's Eve entertainment with a local funk/soul band, an open bar, a Champagne toast at midnight, and a buffet breakfast with bloody marys on New Year's Day.

Add-ons include dinner at Caroline’s Restaurant and massages in the Potosi Spa, both located on-site so you can keep the car tucked away.

While at the hotel, start off your New Year's fitness resolutions with a swim in the indoor pool or a quick workout in the fitness center of the boutique hotel.

Learn more and book here.
Dawson Hallow, a band of five siblings from Missouri, is one of the seven acts performing at Kee Live Music Festival in Cherokee this January.

Warm Up With a Music Festival in Cherokee

Most music festival imagery has us dreaming of summer, with hipster crowds, flower crowns, camping and sunlit fields of concertgoers. But what better way to bring some warmth and fun to the middle of an icy Iowa winter than with live, in-person music?

The Kee Live Music Festival in Cherokee (formerly known as the Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival) will bring back the music Jan. 13-14. Since cold weather relegates this music festival indoors, the event doubles as a pub crawl as listeners bounce between venues along the town's main streets.

Keeping with its jazz roots, this year features the David Sharp Quartet from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and introduces newer genres with Dawson Hallow, an alternative indie band from Missouri. Click here to see the full lineup of musicians and venue locations. Tickets are available for full pub crawl packages or single jam session entries.
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Artist Larassa Kabel has had her work exhibited in the White House, the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates and the Des Moines Art Center. Her work currently can be seen in an exhibit in Sioux City. Photo: Brittany Brooke Crow.

Sojourn to Sioux City for Art and Culture

Away from all the holiday noise and sparkle, winter is also a season for solitude. In her new solo show, “Sojourn,” through Feb. 12 at the Sioux City Art Center, Des Moines artist Larassa Kabel offers a reflection on the natural cycle of life and loss. Her drawings, paintings, photos and sculpture suggest that even though grief can feel lonely, it’s an experience we all share in common.

“Sojourn” is Kabel's largest show to date and features some of her latest work, including a series of prints that traces connections between humans and animals. As a bonus, the artist has curated both a Spotify playlist and list of books to delve deeper into her exhibition’s themes.

Kabel is an Iowa Artist Fellow and has displayed her artwork nationwide. Some of it belongs in several notable private and corporate collections, including those at the White House, the World Food Prize and the Des Moines Art Center.
Students from Central Academy’s pottery studio in downtown Des Moines worked with artist Jami Milne to create the collaborative project "Under Pressure," which explored showing emotion through art. Photo: Jami Milne.

Art Project Helps Students Translate Feelings

This story originally appeared in our 2022 Lifting the Veil publication. Read it here.

Writer: Andrea Love

What do the South American three-banded armadillo and the coronavirus pandemic have in common? Artist Jami Milne, a Des Moines artist, identified it as self-preservation in a 2022 project titled “Under Pressure.”

In November 2021, Milne was one of 76 individual artists awarded more than $280,000 in American Rescue Plan arts grants distributed through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The one-time funding opportunity was established to help revive the creative industry after the pandemic left many out of work. Grant guidelines specified that the funding needed to be applied toward job development or expenses incurred for a project responding to the pandemic.

In her request, Milne proposed a project based on an idea she had been mulling. “I kept thinking about the idea of being a creature, and that when danger is near, you can just roll yourself in a ball,” she says.

She began obsessively searching the internet for such an animal and found that the three-banded armadillo is the only one of its species that, when sensing danger, rolls itself into a ball, using its outer shell as protection.

At the same time, she was perplexed that this self-protective response by some humans seemed to frustrate others. “It felt like during the pandemic, everyone is doing their best to go into that ball, to go in their family and into protection, but it also felt like people were trying to pull others out of the ball because they didn’t feel it was right. There seems to be this incessant need by society to pull away at these safety nets we’re creating for ourselves,” she explains.

Read the full story on how Milne translated this feeling into art with the help of Central Academy pottery students here.
The Coffee Beanz Theatre Group will present "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" in Spencer on Dec. 17. Photo: Coffee Beanz Theatre Group.

Discover Spencer’s Gifts in 'Christmas in the Gallery'

Twelve drummers drumming? Eleven pipers piping? Whatever's on your holiday shopping list, there is a solid chance you’ll find it at Arts on Grand in downtown Spencer, an Iowa Cultural and Entertainment District.

This year’s “Christmas in the Gallery” exhibit features original artwork from more than three dozen Iowa artists, and it’s all for sale: silver jewelry, glass ornaments, ceramic bowls, hand-printed cards, even a few hand-painted decoys of ducks and loons (and probably a partridge in a pear tree, if you look hard enough).

If you visit on Dec. 17, stick around for a performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” by the touring Coffee Beanz Theatre Group. And to make life really wonderful, pop in to Carroll’s Bakery two doors down, where you’ll find the doughnuts, pastries and desserts that locals have enjoyed since 1916.
Find unique and even personalized gifts at the Waterloo Handcrafted Market, like these handmade wooden ornaments from Pretty Good Stuff Workshop.

Handcrafted Goods for Holiday Giving

Find all kinds of goodies at the Waterloo Handcrafted Market, happening at the Waterloo Convention Center Dec. 17-18. The shopping event showcases seasonal items from local artists, makers and small businesses.

Find small trinkets like jewelry, candles and decor, self-care items like soaps and teas, or larger presents like handmade wooden furniture. Check the event’s Facebook page for updates and vendor previews.

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