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.

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Listen and Follow

Even if snow isn't in the forecast, organizers at Dubuque's snow festival have worked to make sure there's enough for sculpting. Photo courtesy of the city of Dubuque.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The fifth annual Winter Arts Snow Sculpting Festival officially started this morning in Dubuque, but the fun got a head start a few days ago when locals pitched in to make several tons of snow at the Sundown Mountain ski resort. They had to haul it downtown to Washington Park, chew it up with a giant snowblower, and shoot it into 6-by-6-by-8-foot wooden frames. Hardy volunteers then climbed into the frames to pack the snow into six consistently dense blocks.

“People climb in and out and in and out and in and out for a day,” says organizer Jenni Petersen-Brant, the arts and culture coordinator for the city of Dubuque. “It seems ridiculous, but it’s lovely and hilarious—and really good winter exercise.”

This year, four professional teams are competing for a ticket to the national tournament in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Two collegiate teams are participating, too, from Clarke University in town and the University of Wisconsin across the river at Platteville. They’ll have to put down their tools at noon Sunday, when judges will determine a winner. Visitors can vote for a People’s Choice winner and try their hand at sculpting in a special area for the public.

The city of Dubuque presents the free event with help from several community groups, including the Dubuque Museum of Art, a Cultural Leadership Partner of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. For more events in the city’s designated Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District, visit
The permanent exhibit "Endless Possibilities" features stories and artifacts of Black history in Iowa. Image courtesy of the African American Museum of Iowa.


The African American Museum of Iowa exhibits will be open with free admission and extended hours on Thursday, Feb. 17, in celebration of Black History Month. Visitors to the Cedar Rapids museum can also enjoy a free book, snack and activity sheets as part of the event.

Museum exhibits trace Iowa’s African American history from its origins to the present. Along the journey, you’ll explore the diversity of Western Africa, learn about the experience aboard ships carrying enslaved Africans, the quest for freedom, the struggle for equality, and the unique history of African American communities across Iowa.

Learn more about the museum and explore online resources such as oral history videos and youth-oriented activities at
Admire the juxtaposition of colorful kites against a frozen landscape as "Color the Wind" returns to Clear Lake.


Whales soar, pigs fly, and rainbow-colored kites in all shapes and enormous sizes will glide above Clear Lake Saturday, Feb. 19, during "Color the Wind." The festival brings serious kite-flyers from across the country to dazzle spectators with skillful choreography and creative designs.

Admission is free for this family-friendly celebration held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the ice. Festivalgoers can purchase a kite of their own at the Lakeview Community Center, located in downtown's City Park (Main Avenue and North Lakeview Drive). Attendees are encouraged to dress for winter weather and wear sunglasses to protect their eyes during a day of watching the sky amid reflections off the snow.

Find free parking at Clear Lake High School (125 N. 20th St.); complimentary shuttles to and from downtown; and food trucks parked across from the Clear Lake Yacht Club.
The tubing hill at Cone Park is one of 20 attractions Travel Iowa has featured for finding winter fun across the state.


From the towering 700-foot tubing hill at Cone Park in Sioux City to the slopes of Dubuque's Sundown Mountain, there are plenty of spots across Iowa where you can take advantage of the six additional weeks of winter that the groundhog predicted. Travel Iowa has mapped 20 options for outdoor recreation and indoor excitement (think laser tag and karting tracks) here.

If you're in the Olympic spirit, Iowa Winter Games also has a few more competitions left this season: Snowshoe will take place on Feb. 12 at Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls, and you can catch figure skating Feb. 26-27 in Cedar Rapids. Find details at
Documentary filmmakers capture footage at the Dey House in Iowa City. Photo courtesy of Produce Iowa.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is famous for producing stories. But once upon a time, a new story began about the workshop itself.

A team of Iowa City filmmakers is producing a documentary about the University of Iowa’s legendary writing program, focusing their lens on a diverse group of workshop students. The cameras have been following their development as writers during their time in Iowa.

“I hope [audiences] see there’s something very special happening here, and they see the challenges of living a creative life,” says workshop director Lan Samantha Chang.

The documentary project received a $50,000 Greenlight Grant from Produce Iowa, the state office of film and media production, which has awarded a dozen grants since the program started three years ago. The topics run the gamut, from Nile Kinnick to cattle farming to a group of Iowan mountaineers.

Read more about the Writers’ Workshop documentary on Produce Iowa’s blog.
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The USDA’s new loan program provides financial support to businesses wanting to start or expand middle of the food supply chain activities such as aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storage, transportation, wholesale, or distribution of food.

... Read more

Image by Siegfried Poepperl via Unsplash.


The legislative session is underway, and food assistance programs are up for debate.

“We have already seen no less than seven bills introduced this session targeting SNAP and those who may need it," says Luke Elzinga, a spokesperson for the Iowa Hunger Coalition. Adding your voice as an advocate on specific bills is a concrete way to take action. Here are three tips for stepping into advocacy on this issue:

1. Sign up to track progress. Bills can move quickly through subcommittees, and timely communication with your legislators is critical to making an impact. By signing up to receive action alerts through the Iowa Hunger Coalition, you'll get prompts to make an impact just in time:

2. Personalize the script. Advocacy groups often prepare sample messaging so members can easily reach out to lawmakers with consistent priorities. Keep the key points, but add your own stories and experience where you can to more deeply connect. When possible, make a phone call in addition to sending an email.

3. Bring others along. As you educate yourself and take action as an individual, spread the word through your social media channels using #IowaStopsHunger to connect others in your circle to opportunities to advocate directly to elected officials.

Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing Business Publications Corp. Inc. initiative to raise awareness of food insecurity and inspire action to combat it.
Sculptures such as "Touched by the Sun" by Michael Dunbar greet visitors to the Sioux City Art Center.


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

Walk up to the Sioux City Art Center from one of the nearby hotels and be instantly consumed by the creativity and color on the modern campus.

Outside, 14 sculptures, many with organic shapes, greet visitors as they walk to the glass-enclosed structure, which opened in 1997. With more than 1,000 works by artists from the upper Midwest, including many with Sioux City ties, there’s plenty to see and experience. Enter the building and walk the geometric floor labyrinth based on a Greek design, while light pours in through the 46-foot atrium.

Several permanent galleries opened in September 2019, including the Margaret Ann Martin Everist Permanent Collection Gallery. Inside the space, see landscapes and nature scenes: “Bluejay Ojibwe” by Billy Hassell is particularly striking with its vibrant hues, as are stacked porcelain forms created by Iowa State University professor Ingrid Lilligren, and “Trio” by Iowa-born artist Tracy Miller. Her paintings “quirt and move and hop,” she says.

Read the full story here.
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