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Arts & Life

10 Events And Art Exhibits Worth Leaving Your House For This Winter

Michael Leland

December in Iowa can feel like a magical wonderland of lights. January and February in Iowa can feel like a cold, dark wasteland. There are lots of wonderful arts events happening across the state this winter. Here’s a list of a few we think are worth leaving your house for, some of which are indoors and some that celebrate the winter weather. 

Madama Butterfly at the Paramount Theatre

January 17 and 19
Tickets: $19-69

Never been to the opera? 2020 is a great time to give it a shot. Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre opens its season in collaboration with Orchestra Iowa with Puccini’s tragic masterpiece Madama Butterfly January 17 at the Paramount Theatre. The opera is story of unrequited love. You might have heard a preview of the show this week on IPR Classical.

Beat The Bitter's Fire and Ice in North Liberty

January 26
Tickets: free

The city of North Liberty hosts what they call "Beat the Bitter" programming every January. From an outdoor 5k to a "snuggie crawl," the events are meant to encourage Iowans to get out of the house in one of the coldest months of the year. This year's Fire and Ice will have carnival rides, ice carving, food trucks, a bonfire and horse drawn carriage rides. 

Dino-Light! in Orange City


January 29 
Tickets: $18 for adults, $12 for students 

Orange City Arts is hosting Lightwire Theatre for a show called Dino-Light, which is a glow-in-the-dark fusion of puppetry, LED technology and dance. The show tells the story of a famous scientist with magical powers that brings a friendly dinosaur to life. The dinosaur eventually wanders away from home and discovers a world full of creatures who light up the darkness.

The Surf Ballroom's Winter Dance Party

January 30 – February 1
Tickets: $35-$75

The Winter Dance Party bills itself as the premiere 50s Rock ‘N Roll event in the Midwest. In 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” and a handful of other artists set out on a barnstorming tour in the Midwest. They played the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake on February 2. After the show, the plane meant to take the three musicians to their next destination crashed. The dance party has been a memorial tradition ever since.

Shesh Besh, The Arag-Jewish Ensemble at the Dubuque Heritage Center

February 1
Tickets: $14-20

Shesh Besh is comprised of two members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra who perform alongside three musicians from Israel’s Arab community. Instrumentation includes a violin, oud, flute, double bass and percussion. The ensemble’s sound reflects a multicultural context of classical Western music, classical Eastern works and original compositions.

Oneota Film Festival

February 13-16
Tickets: free

Held annually at the Cresco Theatre and Opera House, the Oneota Film Festival is celebrating 11 years. This year, organizers have chosen to screen three short documentaries. “Catnap” is an animated short, “The Foursome” is a documentary about a friendship among a group of friends playing their fiftieth round of golf at the Waukon Men’s Invitational, and “The Cy-Hawk Trophy” is a documentary about a group of friends who started the tradition of trading the now famed Cy-Hawk Trophy.

Color the Wind Kite Festival


February 15
Tickets: free

The Color the Wind Kite Festival is the Midwest’s largest kite festival, usually held on Clear Lake. Kite flyers and enthusiasts from across the U.S. attend this festival, which features giant inflatable kites of all kinds and choreographed kite ballets throughout the day.

Magic of Music

February 29
Tickets: $23

The Ottumwa Symphony is collaborating with a magician for a concert at Indian Hills Community College. William the Conjurer will perform what the symphony describes as "spellbinding tricks," while they play Mozart’s “Magic Flute Overture” and Johnny Mercer’s “Old Black Magic.”

Yoga Under The Stars

Mondays, October – May
Tickets: $10

The Science Center of Iowa hosts yoga classes in the planetarium on Mondays. If you’re missing the ability to be outdoors under the night sky without several layers of clothes, classes are $10 and require pre-registration.

Joslyn Art Museum: Everyday People: The Art of James E. Ransome

Through February 9
Admission: free

Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist James E. Ransome has illustrated more than 60 childrens' books. Ransome’s vivid oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings depict inspiring stories about unknown characters including Uncle Jed and Aunt Flossie as well as individuals who made history, like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Louis Armstrong, and Satchel Paige. They are on display at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.