Arts and Culture

Kael Bloom / Unsplash

Even long-time Iowans might not realize how many composers our state has produced. Here are five videos of their music being played by other Iowans. 

Alice Dietrich / Unsplash

Creative people often work in isolation, which means a shelter-in-place mentality is not unfamiliar. However, so many creative fields such as publishing and live music have affected people's livelihoods. With returning to normal off in the distance, we wanted to know how creative people have been handling this new world and how they've found comfort in the arts.

Charity Nebbe/IPR

In her book Eligible, author Curtis Sittenfeld retells the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice with a modern, Midwestern twist. The Bennet family lives in Cincinnati, Liz Bennet is a journalist in her late 30’s and the bachelors Bingley and Darcy are wealthy doctors with coastal ties.

RDG Planning & Design

In 2018, Varsity movie theater in Des Moines closed after an 80-year run. Now the nonprofit Des Moines Film Society wants to reopen it.

President of the Film Society’s board of directors, Ben Godar, says his four-year-old organization has been looking for its own home to screen independent films and hold events.

“We’ve tried to tie in a lot of education where we can to our screenings, have filmmakers in person, things like that,” says Godar. “Having our own facility is just going to give us more and more tools to do those kind of things.”

Madeleine King/IPR

For the past 20 years, Iowa Public Radio’s Rob Dillard has been working hard to keep Iowans informed and share some of Iowa’s unique voices.

Claire Kung (Brainstorm Media)

What does it mean to find a sense of self in work? The new film "Working Man" explores this question through a group of laid off factory workers as they fight for the reopening of their fictional factory -- the last of its kind in the small Midwestern city where they live.

On Friday, April 17, live storytelling lovers are invited to “Upbeat: Music Stories Told on the Record,” a Moth-inspired event via Zoom.

Mary Cohen and Harold Searcy, who are involved with a community choir at one of Iowa's prisons will each talk about how music has impacted their lives in positive ways.

Michael Leland

Ashley Shields became the executive director of the Old Creamery Theater in Amana on Feb. 9. A little more than a month later, the professional company in eastern Iowa postponed its production of the jukebox musical “Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story.” It was because of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Shields has been working to keep her spirits up ever since.

Michael Leland / IPR

On a drizzly Easter Sunday in downtown Des Moines, the sound of church bells rang through the city accompanied the patter of a cold, spring rain. 

Mark Babcock, the choirmaster and organist for The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, played a 30-minute carillon concert for churchgoers to enjoy from the safety of their cars. 


"A Sand County Almanac" was first published in 1949, but Aldo Leopold’s contemplative musings on conservation and land stewardship remain poignantly relevant.

Iowa PBS

Dean Borg passed away this week at the age of 81. Borg was a broadcasting legend in the state of Iowa. He is best known for his work on the Iowa PBS program Iowa Press, a position he held for more than 40 years. During that period he interviewed every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. Borg also spent 20 years as a correspondent with Iowa Public Radio.

Courtesy of Rachel Cox

Rachel Cox’s grandmother was a woman with a big personality and a keen sense of fashion. When Cox, a photographer and assistant professor of photography at the University of Iowa, first started taking pictures of her grandmother, she didn’t have any particular projects in mind. But as her grandmother declined over the course of a decade, suffering from a degenerative brain disease, she felt compelled to photograph her life and death. The result is the book Shiny Ghost.

Ramiz Dedaković / Unspalsh

When it comes to images in the media, it’s as much about what isn’t said and shown, as it is about what’s depicted.

This idea of “invisibility” sets the foundation for much of Barbie Zelizer’s work. Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Professor of Communication and director of the Center for Media at Risk at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a former journalist.

Courtesy of Jonathan Govias / Iowa State University

The Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra is performing a Symphony of Diversity on March 6 at Stephens Auditorium in Ames. This program brings artists and composers to the concert hall to highlight some of the many cultures and peoples that make up America.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater / HANCHER

Set to spirituals, gospel songs and blues, Alvin Ailey’s modern dance masterpiece "Revelations" was first performed in 1960. It was unlike anything audiences had seen before, and since then it’s been performed continuously around the globe.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with Iowa native Ronnie Favors of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater about her journey through modern dance and the troupe’s upcoming Iowa performance.

Universal Productions France

Jean Seberg grew up in Marshalltown. She became an international movie star and lived most of her adult life in Paris. Seberg starred in 37 films and is possibly best remembered for her role in the movie “Breathless,” the forefront of the French New Wave movement. 

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with the filmmaking team behind the documentary “Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg,” to give us their thoughts of the new film “Seberg.” 

Tanya Rosen-Jones Photography

Simply by his resume, poet and documentarian David James Savarese is exceptional. His poems and prose have been published in journals and magazines across the country, including the Iowa Review, and his 2017 documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery, which he co-produced, earned a 2018 Peabody Award and Emmy nomination.

Savarese is also autistic and nonspeaking. He describes poetry as his native language.

Greg Thatcher

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by Fairfield-based artist Greg Thatcher, who has been making art inspired by yew trees for more than 30 years. Thatcher talks about his “Sacred Yew” exhibit at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and his multi-decade relationship with a single grove of yew trees in a small English town. 

What are the Rules? Can I Break Them?

Feb 20, 2020 (cropped)
Chris Clayson

  This program origionally aired on 5-15-18.

The laws, morals, and ethics which guide us, can also confuse us, and sometimes challenge us to improve or change the rules.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe gets a look at the philosophy of rules with Scott Samuelson, a philosophy professor at Kirkwood Community College. He says that he's learned a lesson stemming from the life of Socrates that for the most part, rules are important to follow, and when they need to change, then sometimes civil disobedience is that way that is done.

The Actors' Gang / Hancher

Tim Robbins discusses "The New Colossus," a theatrical performance and story depicting the immigrant experience, with IPR's Charity Nebbe. 

Courtesy of Vero Rose Smith

What does it mean to create in apocalyptic times? A new course and public talk series at the University of Iowa seeks to answer this question while looking at the concept of large-scale endings through art, music, writing and other mediums.

Element5digital / Unsplash

Actor Jordan Whalen grew up in Ames and has been interested in the Iowa caucuses since 2007. Whalen has always thought the Democratic caucus process is naturally theatrical and has been thinking about developing a play about this political event for more than a decade. Now he is one of the leaders of New York City's Counterpart Collective, a theatre group whose mission is to create theatre derived from primary sources.


Kai Wright is the host of "The United State of Anxiety," a podcast from WNYC Studios. The newest season of the podcast focuses on what it means to build a multiracial democracy in 2020 and if that reality is even possible.  On this segment of River to River Kai Wright joins host Ben Kieffer ahead of a live taping of "The United State of Anxiety" at the University of Iowa on Jan. 27. 

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me / WBEZ

The caucuses are a less than two weeks away, and that means Iowa is getting some pretty special visitors. This isn’t a reference to all the presidential candidates; Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! is in Des Moines to record show in front of a sold out audience.

As a method for processing the end of a nine-year marriage with a gay man, Kellie Kramer has channeled her energy and emotions into a one-woman cabaret show, "All the Good Men Are Gay."  Kramer, an actor and singer who hosts Iowa Outdoors on Iowa PBS, pieces together the story of love and loss through songs that range from Judy Garland to "Weird Al" Yankovic. 

Jesper Aggergaard / Unsplash

Weightlifting didn't appear on Cynthia Martin's radar until age 64, when she picked up barbells for the first time through a Cross Fit program. Just a few years later, the Marion native won the 2018 National Weightlifting Championship in Buffalo, New York. 

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. 

Courtesy of "Adore Us! Line" Production Team

From the creator of "Caucus: The Musical," a new song-by song parody of "A Chorus Line" showcases the 2020 Democratic candidates auditioning for Iowa voters. 

Composer, Playwright, and Producer Robert John Ford joins this edition of Talk of Iowa to discuss the opening of his musical, "Adore Us! Line." 

Pictured here: Poppy
Molly Wood

Photographer and 2018 Iowa Arts Council Fellow Molly Wood joins this edition of Talk of Iowa to reveal the inspirations behind her exhibit "The Poison Garden," which is on display at the Dubuque Museum of Art through Jan. 12. Her exhibit "Fatal Flora" is at the State Library of Iowa through Jan. 31. 

David Geiger / "Journey of a Bean"

Freshly harvested from cropland in Illinois, a single soy bean travels the world before ending up as part of a meal in Seoul, South Korea. Its long journey through the global agricultural and food industries paints a detailed picture of the real farm to table processes.