Iowa Week: The Community Arts in Iowa are Thriving

Sep 23, 2016

The act of creating is a powerful one, but you don't have to be a professional artist to tap into that power.  On this "Iowa Week" program about the arts in Iowa, we talk to a number of Iowans about art in their communities, from theater to community bands to the visual arts. 

We begin with Maquoketa, in scenic Jackson County, a town shaped in recent years by an artistic movement.  Charity speaks to Rose Frantzen, one of the major catalysts of this movement.  She is the creator of Portrait of Maquoketa, a huge mural painted on 34 vertical panels that features the beautiful landscape of the city and on the back of the panels the faces of 180 residents of Maquoketa.  The work has been showcased at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and is owned by the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, where it will be on display starting October 2.

After our discussion about Maquoketa, we moved on to talk about the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames with Executive Director Heather Johnson.  She told us the Center is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.  The Octagon serves over 32,000 people a year through art classes, special workshops, rotating exhibits and special events such as the Octagon Arts Festival and festival of trees.

We also found out about the very active Webster City Community Theatre from one of its players, Loween Getter.   She told us the group will put on its 99th play in November with the midwest premier of "A Nice Family Christmas."  Getter says the group usually does four to five shows per season including musicals, children's shows and holiday specials and most months they also feature a Readers' Theater.  From Webster City, we traveled to Le Mars in northwest Iowa, where the Le Mars Community Band is thriving with 50 members.  The band's secretary and a flutist, Sue Ashenfelter, says the group started giving weekly concerts in 1907.  Jerry Bertrand has completed 29 summers as director of the band.

Tying the hour together and providing insight into community arts activities statewide was Maura Pilcher, Director of the Grant Wood Arts Colony in Iowa City, part of the Office of Outreach and Engagement at the University of Iowa.  Pilcher says her organization has worked with community arts organizations in practically all of Iowa's 99 counties.