Arts and Culture

provided by Dawson Davenport

A Meskwaki artist is working to open an indigenous art gallery and event space in Iowa City. Multidisciplinary artist and writer Dawson Davenport wants to magnify the voices of other Native American creators. 

Courtesy of Elizabeth Moen

Elizabeth Moen is a favorite in Iowa. She's played venues like Racoon Motel in Davenport, the Englert Theater in Iowa City, stopped by Daytrotter last year, and even made her way onto the Hinterland lineup for this summer.

But following the release of her second EP and a tour that took her from coast to coast and over seas,  it's becoming clear that Moen's fan base streaches far beyond statelines

Omar Al Farooq Pn

Recent films like Marvel's "Black Panther" and Jordan Peele's "Us" have been praised as a huge step forward for black representation in Hollywood and pop culture. But black actors and directors have been making art in Hollywood far before these films came to the big screen. 

Emily Woodbury/Iowa Public Radio

Everybody can get behind daily pictures of cute dogs, and 10-year-old Gideon Kidd of Cedar Falls has gone viral sharing pictures of dogs he's met on his twitter account @IvePetThatDog

Almost exactly one year ago, Gideon and his mother Rachel Braunigan launched the account, and since then Gideon has amassed more than 214,000 followers from his daily dog posting.

Michael Weber / Shadow Fox Photography

For more than two decades, multidisciplinary artist Jason Snell has been challenging the relationship between music, maker, and technology to create richly engineered performances and complex soundscapes. 

Jonathan Dresner / Licensed under CC BY 2.0 -

The work of Grant Wood has inspired countless imitators, parodies, books, a symphony, and now - an opera.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe gets a preview of “Grant Wood Operas: Strokes of Genius," which will be performed at Theatre Cedar Rapids on April 12, 13, and 14. The performance will feature three one-act operas, each one written and composed by a different Iowa composer and inspired by a different Grant Wood Paintings.

Guests this hour include:

Des Moines hip-hop artist, Asphate, is releasing a new album this spring. The Main Dude’s debut album, “A Bloodied Up Conclusion,” is produced by Batsauce and will be out this summer under the longtime underground rap powerhouse indie label, Galapagos4, based in Chicago.

In this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Asphate about the inspiration for the album.

Meskwaki poet Ray Young Bear has been writing poetry for more than half a century, and recently had his poems and prose accepted for publication in The Iowa Review and Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry, Craft and Conversations.

Young Bear joins this episode of Talk of Iowa to share some of his recent work, and to perform a word song written in Meskwaki. 

Deanna Castings/Pexels

For 20 years, readers have been hooked on the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends, with many people finding inspiration in the characters and themes of the books by J.K. Rowling. The very popular podcast "Harry Potter and the Sacred Text" has grown out of that community, and it takes an intentional look at the series and the lessons we can take from it. 


The new film, “Sons and Daughters of Thunder” tells the story of the anti-slavery debates that took place at the Ohio Lane theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1834. These controversial meetings, lead by abolitionists, were the first to publically discuss the end of slavery in the U.S. and served as a catalyst for major social activism and change at the seminary and throughout the wider Cincinnati community. 

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa has a reputation as being a home for writers. Recently that has been especially true for writers of poetry. Many poets across the state releasing new collections, participating in readings, poetry slams, and striving to teach and inspire the next generation of poets.

During this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe will be speaking with three Iowa poets about their work and about the growing scene across the state. Their writing deals with a range of themes and inspirations, from death and sickness, and true crime, to arm wrestling at the Iowa State Fair.

Courtesy of Sam Fathallah

The music scene in Iowa and the rest of the Midwest is thriving right now and videographer Sam Fathallah wants everyone to know about it.

That's why Fathallah started Circular Sessions, a video series showcasing the breadth and depth of the Midwestern music scene through interviews and performances. Through the series, Fathallah invites artists including Elizabeth Moen, The Maytags, and Bad Bad Hats into his sun-filled artist's loft for a session that feels as creative as it is intimate. 

“Music in this type of space, in this natural lit open space... it's reminiscent of how music is made, when it's really made. You know, when it's rehearsed in people's living rooms, and in their basements before it even gets to the studio," Fathallah says. "That's what music really looks like especially in Iowa, where folks are just making music in their homes.”

Phil Roeder

Jackson Pollock's "Mural" is the most famous work of art owned by the University of Iowa. The piece is seen as one of Pollock's most important works, and it marked a shift in styles during Pollock's career as an artist.

Mural was saved during the floods of 2008, sent to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to be restored, and has been on tour ever since. It will return to Iowa City when the new University of Iowa Museum of Art is ready.

Courtesy of Joe Heath

Generations of Iowans have been inspired by stories told about Nile Kinnick, Jr., winner of the 1939 Heisman Trophy. Now we’re going to have an opportunity to see Kinnick and the other members of his team on the big screen.

The film "The Ironmen" has been in the works for years, but now it’s close to becoming a reality. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with author Tom Lidd. His novel Nile inspired the film.

Jared Eberhardt

Writer, actor, and comedian Paul Rust is coming home to perform in the Floodwater Comedy Festival in Iowa City this weekend. 

Urban Dreams was founded in 1985. Since then it has been making connections, overcoming barriers and changing lives for members of Iowa’s underserved and underrepresented populations by helping people with substance abuse, mental health challenges, criminal records, and improving community relationships with the police.

Reality television has been a major presence for more than 25 years. After the unprecedented success of MTV’s “The Real World,” this genre exploded.

During this Talk of Iowa interview, Charity Nebbe talks with Racquel Gates, who argues that reality TV is not simply “trashy,” but offers things like nuanced portrayals of women of color and progressive stances on queer identities.

State Farm

Whether it's ice dams, frozen pipes, frozen door knobs, or frost on the inside of windows and walls, this winter has been hard on our homes.

In this home improvement day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe chats with home improvement expert Bill McAnally about repairing the damage done by the polar vortex.

Kate Payne

One of rural Iowa’s most unique restaurants is losing its chef, leaving the future of the Ladora Bank Bistro somewhat uncertain. The struggle to find a new owner for the restaurant shows how difficult it can be to keep historic buildings open in small town Iowa. 

Elly Hofmaier

A new Iowa-based play titled “My Daughters are My Writings” highlights the story of a little-known group, the Republican Brotherhood, from Sudan. It's a collaboration by members of the University of Iowa.

Playwright Margot Connolly, a graduate of the UI MFA playwriting workshop, says she hopes the performance will help challenge stereotypes of Muslim women.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Connolly, as well as the author of “Modern Muslims: A Sudan Memoir," and several UI graduate students of history who contributed to the play. 

courtesy DMARC

Beginning this week, agencies that help get food to hungry Iowans are expanding their services.

The Des Moines area’s DMARC Mobile Food Pantry will add four more stops to its schedule, which will provide a healthy, three-day supply of food to some people who haven’t been able to get it from other food pantry locations.

Luke Elzinga, DMARC’s communications manager, says the additional stops mean the mobile pantry will reach more of the people the agency knows are in need.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Growing up poor in Mississippi, Cedric Burnside didn't have running water.

It's a fact he highlights in the first song on his Grammy-nominated album, Benton County Relic.

In the upbeat, soulful song, titled "We Made It," Burnside croons verses like, "I came from nothing, I done been lower than low" and "Walk 3 miles every day, to have water in the house for another day."

Burnside grew up in his grandfather's house, along with many of his cousins. It wasn't until he was 12 years old that they finally got running water.


It was the fall of 1975 when Larry Untiet started teaching in Spencer, Iowa, the same year that the Iowa High School Speech Association State Festival got its start. 

Since then, Untiet has taken Spencer High School students to the festival every single year, making Spencer the only school to boast representation at the statewide event for every year of its existence.

After 44 years of musicals, speech tournaments, and thousands of students, Untiet is retiring and leaving a notable legacy as a champion for high school performance arts.

Wapsipinicon Almanac

In 1988, Tim Fay of Anamosa, Iowa had an idea: to publish on an antique letterpress assembled of parts he found all over the country, a yearly (or occasional) journal "to silence anyone who thinks Iowa doesn't have a literary culture."  The Wapsipincon Almanac was born, named after the scenic river that runs through Fay's Anamosa and Northeast Iowa.

Carl Wycoff / Flickr

Cayson Irlbeck is 10-years-old, and until a few months ago, he'd never seen the green of the grass or the red of a stop sign. That all changed one afternoon when his parents surprised him with a pair of Enchroma glasses, which allow some people who are red-green colorblind to see in full color. He says it's been life changing for him. 

"Stoplights. Stop signs. The grass," he says. "My dad will wake me up really early, and I'll see the purple and orange in the sunrise. The sunsets are awesome too." 

Brandon Giesbrecht / flickr

The National Alliance for Audition Support is celebrating its first birthday this month. The alliance was formed to make major orchestras look more like the cities in which they're located. 

russellstreet / flickr

What do the poetic line "my love is like a red, red rose," and the lyrics to Auld Lange Syne have in common? A  Scottish man named Robert Burns. 

Burns was a working-class Scot who gained notoriety among the aristocracy in Scotland in the late 1700's for his poetry and for creating perfectly metered couplets off the top of his head. His work and life have continued to capture the imaginations of poetry fans in Scotland and around the world since his death. 

Courtesy of Dean Bakopoulos

"When I was 16, my father went to the moon..." 

That's how the new movie "Don't Come Back From the Moon" begins. It's a new major motion picture starring James Franco and Rashida Jones and is based on Iowa author Dean Bakopoulos's first novel Please Don't Come Back From the Moon. 

In both the book and the film, fathers disappear, leaving families to wonder what happened to them. 


In 2018, we said goodbye to a number of remarkable Iowans. On this edition of River to River, we remember them by looking back at their lives, listening to excerpts of interviews and speaking to people who knew them well.

Kamyar Enshayan immigrated to the United States 40 years ago from Iran to go to college. He tried to attend school there, but he says that classes and whole semesters were getting cancelled due to governmental and cultural discontent. 

Amidst the current immigration debate, he's been asking himself a question: "how long someone stays an immigrant?"