Arts and Culture

Karla Conrad

With 99 counties and some serious driving time between major metropolitan centers, it’s easy for Iowa’s artists community to feel decentralized and sprawing. The Iowa Arts Council wants that to change.

2014 marked the first class of fellows under the Iowa Artist Fellowship, and five years later, the program continues, with five Iowa artists receiving $10,000 each to support their artistic endeavors and professional development.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores the work of three fellows to learn more about the breadth of artistic work happening here in Iowa.


Noah Doely is a cross-discipline artist, working in photography, sculpture, and video. Most recently, Doely has focused his energy on a series of constructed, tableau-based cyanotypes -- a 19th century iron-based photography process that creates monochromatic images in a striking shade of blue. Doely is an assistant professor of photography at the University of Northern Iowa and has exhibited his work nationally and internationally in venues including the San Diego Museum of Art, Des Moines Art Center, and Viafarini in Milan, Italy.


University of Iowa senior Erica Cole was in a car accident in May of 2018 that so badly crushed her left leg from the knee down that she had to have it amputated. 

She says waking up without her leg after the accident was weird, but more than she was upset, she felt lucky. 

"I felt very lucky to still be here. Going through that and having that fear that I wasn't going to make it.... It sucks, but from the beginning, it was an immediate, 'oh my gosh, I'm still alive. I'm going to make the best of it.'" 

Katie Peikes/IPR

The western Iowa city of Denison is known as the hometown of actress Donna Reed. And residents have embraced that.

Every year just before the holidays, a theater bearing Reed’s name makes it a tradition to show the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life."


This year, they hosted a screening with Spanish subtitles — a nod to the town’s large Hispanic population.

sarahmirk / Creative Commons

In many ways, our culture has become more accepting of members of the LGBTQ community, but some spaces and fields, including athletics, lag behind. Homophobia still exists in locker rooms, on playing fields, and in the stands.

The fear of homophobia and possible career-ending discrimination keeps many athletes in the closet. 

Gary Kelley/North American Review


Did you know that the nation’s oldest literary magazine is alive right here in Iowa?

The North American Review moved from the east coast in the 1960s, carrying its legacy that boasts writers like John Steinbeck, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood, and Kurt Vonnegut, into the Midwest.


Best-selling author Eoin Colfer is best known for his Artemis Fowl books that follow a 12 year old Irish criminal mastermind as he tries to harness the magic and high tech power of elves, fairies and other magical creatures. People who are familiar with Colfer’s witty and slightly wicked imagination may be surprised to learn that he has penned a heartwarming Christmas musical. It’s called Noel, and the production team behind this musical is based in Ames, Iowa.

Courtesy of

Andrea Gibson, winner of the first ever Woman of the World Poetry Slam, is one of the best known spoken word poets in the country.

Gibson has released seven spoken word albums and five books including their latest collection, “Lord of the Butterflies.” Filled with poems about love, loss, violence, politics, and identity, Lord of the Butterflies is personal, political, angry, vulnerable and beautiful.

John Pemble

Holidays are joyous, often family-packed occasions that bring with them high expectations, and sometimes epic failures.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, storytellers share tales of holiday mishaps and unforgettable moments. These stories were recorded in Iowa City on November 8th, sponsored by Iowa Watch and Iowa Public Radio.

Ali Eminov

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System, which includes the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail. The trail stretches 3,700 miles from Wood River, Illinois to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon and stands as  one of only two national historic trails that passes through Iowa.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Neal Bedlan, Chief of Interpretation of the Lewis and Clark Trail, and Keith Bystrom, an Iowan who traveled the trail for 55 days after retiring  from Iowa State. 

Courtesy of Kevin Burt

Kevin "B.F." Burt, one of Iowa's favorite blues musicians, won the International Blues Challenge last year Since then, he's toured all across the country and has just released a new album featuring some heavy hitters from the nation's blues scene.




Nicholas Johnson is a native Iowan and retired University of Iowa law professor who served two appointed positions under the Johnson administration, including a seven-year term as the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commissioner between in the late 60s and early 70s.


Johnson is also an accomplished editorial writer. In this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Johnson about his latest collection of editorial writings called "Columns of Democracy."


Casey Reyner

Our Iowa City studio recently got a major face lift. We painted some grey-brown walls robin’s egg blue, got rid of some office furniture that hadn’t been used in years and set up lobby space that reminds us of our living rooms at home. 

As a statewide network, we have studios across Iowa. Talk of Iowa and River to River’s production team is based in Iowa City, and for two hours a day on weekdays, the producers and hosts who work on those shows foster conversation that inspires and educates Iowans.

Sascha Kohlmann

It was just over a year ago that the #MeToo movement went viral. Many see this as a step forward for women and others who have been victimized, but what does it mean for men?

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a conversation on what #MeToo means to men personally, socially, and culturally.

Iowa State University student Benjamin Whittington, says he's had ongoing conversations with his peers in the year since #MeToo took off.

State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City via City of Iowa City /

Iowa City officials are considering local and national historic designations for the city’s central business district. The changes could mean greater protections but also more regulations for new construction downtown. 

Kate Payne / IPR

An organ in Iowa City will play again publicly this weekend, ten years after floodwaters silenced it. After extensive restoration and reconstruction, the instrument is getting its post-2008 flood public debut.

Hoyt Sherman Place

The historic entertainment venue Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines is drafting plans and raising money for a makeover. It’s expanding to meet the modern demands placed on concert halls.

Some of the structure was built in 1877 as a home for Civil War Major Hoyt Sherman and his family. It now includes an art gallery and a 1,200 seat theater that attracts touring musicians.

Nick Spanos

Tank and the Bangas, an American funk and soul music group from New Orleans won 2017’s Tiny Desk Contest by unanimous vote, wowing NPR’s music desk with their unique spoken word inspired style. During this Talk of Iowa conversation, Tarriona "Tank" Ball,  who is  lead vocalist for the band, talks with host Charity Nebbe. 

Tank and her band are headlining a Halloween show on Tuesday, October 30 at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa. 

Kate Payne / IPR

A musician is keeping a silent film tradition alive by performing the film scores in real time, most recently turning his sights on the 1927 film Metropolis, with a performance on the Barhydt Organ at Fairfield's Arts and Convention Center.

contributed image / TRACES

A century ago, a deadly flu virus swept across the state and around the world. Millions of people died, including more than 6,000 in Iowa.

Over the next month, social historian Michael Luick-Thrams will visit dozens of libraries, schools and museums in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana with a presentation he calls The Killer. He said it’s an effort to help people understand the scope of the disaster because it is a piece of history that is not well known.

Katie Peikes/IPR file

Four years ago, a major northwest Iowa food processing company closed. The site will soon reopen under a new company that plans to bring lost jobs back to the area.

The host of Snap Judgment, Glynn Washington, has a way of catching people’s attention and not letting go. He draws listeners deep into an idea or a story and leads the audience toward unlikely conclusions.

Every episode of the public radio show and podcast is different from every other episode, but great storytelling is at the heart of it all.

Katie Peikes / IPR

Growing up, Sioux City native Ron Clements often attended screenings of Disney films that showed for two weeks at the city's Orpheum Theatre, but it was a reissued screening of Pinocchio he saw when he was nine years old, that turned the lightbulb on — he knew he wanted to be an animator for Disney.

"I became obsessed by that movie," Clements told a crowd Friday during his talk at the 14th annual Sioux City International Film Festival. "I drew the characters and drew the characters and went back to see it until it left."

Courtesy of Brian Hull

Puppeteers from all over the country are traveling to Iowa for the Great Plains Puppet Train, a regional puppet festival in West Liberty.

The events begin Thursday, September 13 and run through Sunday the 16th. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe visits with some of the artists who will be performing, including Brian Hull of Nashville.

Courtesy of the UI International Writing Program

Just across the street from the University of Iowa’s famed Writer’s Workshop is the Shambaugh House, the hub of the UI International Writing Program.


As part of the program’s 12-week residency, authors from every continent gather in Iowa City to do readings, lectures, translate literature into their native languages, and travel across the United States. Sometimes, Iowans invite residents into their homes to dine with transnational guests, says the director of the International Writing Program, Christopher Merrill.


Photo Courtesy of Andrew Fuller

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Andrew Fuller, the artist and founder of Guy Meets Cake. 

Fuller has recently been getting national attention for his newest macabre creations, "people pot pies," which are inspired by his love of Halloween and horror and his fascination with artistic hyperrealism. 

As a child raised in Dubuque during the 80s, Luke Stoffel was often told by his mother to stay outside until he found his own version of fun. That, his mother Joyce says, pushed him to be inventive.

“Allowing some of that to happen in kid’s life, their boredom will eventually work into creativity,” she explains.

Tony Potter


Church can be a place of solitude, reflection, and community. For Joe Jennison, writer and director of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group, the Catholic Church provided that space, but could also be unwelcoming at times.

His experience as a gay man in the church led him to write the one-man show Confessions of a Gay Catholic.

John Pemble/IPR

Earlier this year Maddie Poppe won this season of American Idol. The national television show features unknown singers from around the country as they perform in front of celebrity pop music judges. Television viewers vote which artists come back and which do not.

Poppe is from Clarksville, an eastern Iowa town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio


It may have started with Amazon, but it certainly hasn't stopped there. The rise of online shopping has made ordering things to our door so much easier. That now includes food, and that doesn't just mean pizza or Chinese take out. 

A new grocery delivery service called Instacart is starting service in many places in the state later this month, and Iowa based HyVee started a program called Aisles Online that provides free grocery delivery two years ago if you spend more than $100. 

Courtesy of Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson of Marion has been performing as a comedian for over a decade. A few years ago, he was inspired to expand his skill set and learn hypnosis -- after seeing a really bad set. 

"I was watching this act, and I just thought, this could be so much  more," Thompson says. "I'm that kind of person who always wants to be learning and growing."