ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Choptalk talks with Iowa pig farmers who are paying it forward in their communities!

Meet the Lundells fire fighters, coaches, animal caretakers! Two generations of pig farmers that aren't just raising pigs, but also growing Iowa communities.

Listen and Follow
Some 200 local dancers—plus guest dancers performing the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier—enliven Stephens Auditorium’s stage. Photo: Iowa State Center


For the past 40 years, the famous story of a little girl, a prince and their fantastic dream have captured the imaginations of audience members at Ames’ Stephens Auditorium. This weekend, "The Nutcracker" runs with three shows: Saturday at 1 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The two-act ballet is known for its famous Tchaikovsky score and dances such as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum" Fairy. Tickets cost $30 and $25 and can be purchased from Ticketmaster via the Stephens Auditorium's website.

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Take a break from shopping with a bite of German-style pub fare and a brew from Millstream Brew Haus.
Photo: Amana Colonies


Amana takes on special flair during the holiday season. With buildings throughout the historic villages trimmed in holiday greenery plus shops brimming with German treats, it’s a fun and easy destination to check off items on your gift list.

Start the tour in main Amana, where you’ll find scarves, blankets, throws and more with a modern twist at Amana Woolen Mills. Other great selections include artisan-crafted wood pieces such as cutting boards, games and a noodle/pasta cutter (who knew?).

While strolling around, pick up chocolates, ornaments, kitchen gear, women’s fashion, antiques and more. Make sure to check out some of the side streets as you’ll find some gems.
Located south of Norwalk in Central Iowa, Rose Farm is particularly enchanting during the holidays. Plus, the greenhouse offers the ultimate backdrop for your family photo. It's open through Dec. 19. Photo: Jill Neil


In the summer, Rose Farm south of Norwalk is all about the flowers. But come late fall, it's all about making bright Christmas memories. The iconic greenhouse has even graced the likes of this year's Better Homes & Gardens Farmhouse Christmas cover. Here are a few reasons to visit right now.

Hands-on classes
Learn how to freshen up your home for winter with floral arrangements or a grapevine wreath for the front door. For cooking fans, try your hand at workshops on making cinnamon rolls, gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies. Find the class schedule here.

Gift options
Visit the Shoppe at the farm for last-minute stocking stuffers such as candles, room sprays, tea towels, coffee, teas, mugs and more. Enjoy browsing with a cup of warm cocoa or coffee.

Farm animals
If you've got kids, a stop by the chicken coop is a must to see the different-colored fowl. And friendly cats are sure to beg for pets.

Urbandale-based photographer Jill Neil captured the image above for her blog. Read more about her family's experience at the farm last Christmas season here.
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library‘s shop stocks glass ornaments in a rainbow of colors. Find traditional designs, including limited-edition pieces, as well as novelty shapes, including a "corn-ament."
Photo: National Czech & Slovak Museum


Whether you’re familiar with Czech-Slovak culture or are new to the Central European countries, a trip to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids is a must-stop during the holidays if you're in the area. Ever-changing exhibits provide insights into the arts, history and culture of the countries. Current highlights include highly ornamented headdresses (often used as bridal crowns or wreaths) as well as 120 rare treasures, some 500 years old.

During the holiday season, perhaps the most popular stop is the gift shop. There is something for everyone on your list. For foodies, there are cookbooks, tea towels and egg decorating kits. For the home and fashion enthusiast, find ornaments, jewelry and silk scarves. And for the kids, shop for books, puzzles, hand puppets and more.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is charged. Get more information on the museum—and visit the shop’s online store—here.
A Hmong immigrant named Shoua Her embroidered this cloth in the 1990s to tell the story of her move from Laos to Iowa. It’s on display at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. Photo: State Historical Museum of Iowa


Ready for some time traveling? In just 45 minutes, you can explore 13,000 years of history at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines.

To celebrate Iowa’s 175th statehood anniversary on Dec. 28, State Curator Leo Landis will lead a pair of tours, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., through the museum’s latest exhibition, "Iowa's People & Places."

The artifacts on display tell some of the well-known and more surprising stories of Iowa before and after it joined the Union in 1846. Visitors will see Meskwaki beadwork, a battle flag from a Black regiment in the Civil War, a Hmong immigrant’s embroidered "story cloth," a six-pack of canned water from the Missouri River floods of 2019—and so much more.

The tours are free, but registration is required. Keep in mind: Text guides are available in Spanish and Braille, and a nifty 360-degree virtual tour is available online.
Based in Osceola, Revelton Distillery distills whiskey, gin and vodka. You can sample their spirits Wednesdays through Sundays. Photo: Revelton Distillery


This story appears in our 2022 ia magazine issue, which you can read in full here.

Writer: Christina Fernández-Morrow

When Rob and Christi Taylor graduated from Louisville’s Moonshine University in 2016, they were about 60% sure they would open a distillery in Iowa. The couple started thinking about it in 2012 after attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and meeting the world’s most renowned distillers. It became a passion that took the Taylors all over the world visiting distilleries, meeting award-winning makers, and learning more about the process of creating high-quality spirits.

When a property came up for sale in Osceola, they knew it would be the perfect location to make their vision, Revelton Distilling Co., a reality. The problem was, the Taylors weren’t quite ready to take the plunge.

Read the rest of the story here.
Check out miniature Christmas scenes at Council Bluffs' Dollhouse Miniatures Holiday Display, on view through Jan. 8. Photo: Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Honey, they shrunk the kids—and pets and furniture and houses—in Council Bluffs.

Stretch (or shrink) your imagination with more than 35 teeny-tiny installations in the "Dollhouse Miniatures Holiday Display" through Jan. 8 at the Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center in the South Main Cultural District, an Iowa Great Place.

Created by the Omaha-Council Bluffs Miniature Guild, the display beckons visitors to look closely at the miniature scenes: the cat on the chair, the pastries on the plate, the Christmas trees with itty-bitty ornaments. Every inch is intentional.

There’s a tiny version of Santa’s workshop, a Victorian house, a medieval tavern, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and, closer to home, a replica of Edward Carpenter’s orange and yellow "Gateway" art installation, which spans the local Broadway Viaduct.

"That gives us a great opportunity to highlight public art," says Danna Kehm, CEO of Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment.

Better known as PACE, the nonprofit recently hosted a related workshop in the Hoff Center’s makers’ lab, where participants built a miniature suspension bridge out of rope and string. Believe it ... or knot.
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