Arts and Culture

International Writing Program Turns 50

Sep 20, 2017
Credit Ben Kieffer

The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa is one of the university's signature programs, attracting notable authors from across the world and establishing both the university and Iowa City as paramount to the future of American literature. 

Since 1967, over 1,400 writers from more than 150 countries have come to Iowa. International Writing Program director Christopher Merrill explains how the program came about.

Jon Kerstetter has experienced many "crossings" in his lifefrom a civilian doctor to a medical officer in the Army National Guard, and then, after a career-ending stroke, from a medical provider to a recovering patient.

In this hour of Talk of Iowa, Jon Kerstetter talks with host Charity Nebbe about his life's transformations, detailed in his new book, Crossings: A Doctor-Soldier's Story. 

You may have noticed during this pledge drive that we had some new music beds that we used as we were taking a minute to talk about how wonderful it feels to support Iowa Public Radio financially. If you heard any of those and thought, "huh, I like that, wonder what song it is," we've got your back. 

Bob Dorr and the Blue Band Rocking Iowa on Farewell Tour

Sep 12, 2017
www.theblueband.com

Since 1981, Bob Dorr and the Blue Band have played about 100 gigs per year all around Iowa and the Midwest. Over their 30-plus year run, they have become one of Iowa's most celebrated bands, playing their beloved, self-described brand of blues/soul/rockabilly/reggae/Creole/rhythm music at festivals and venues across eastern Iowa, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, and Chicago. They have shared the stage with such icons as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Bobby Rush.

Rawbert|K|Photo

Heated conversations—especially political ones can be unsatisfying and emotionally draining.  In this Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with the co-facilitators of a "difficult conversations" workshop organized by the University of Iowa School of Social Work.  Guests are Alison Oliver and Jefri Pallermo from the University of Iowa, and North Liberty based consultant, coach, and speaker Heather Woody joins in for advice for workplace conversations.

Courtesy of StoryCorps

Many Iowans are familiar with detasseling, the process of pulling the tops off corn plants to achieve cross pollination. For Jamie Christie Christensen and her daughter, Jenna Simpson Davidson, detasseling was an annual lesson in persistence and gratitude.

Jamie and Jenna stopped by the StoryCorps booth in Des Moines to talk about the connection they see between those summers in the fields and their time in the classroom.

http://www.mattkuhns.com

The Iowa and Iowa State football rivalry as we know it today only dates back to 1977, but even during the years when the Cyclones never played the Hawkeyes, there was a rivalry between the two schools. And the sports rivalry may pale in comparison to a conflict when Virgil Hancher was the president of the University of Iowa and James Hilton was the President of Iowa State University.  Matt Kuhns has written about those years in the new book Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

Tony Rinaldo

Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected interviews with more than 400-thousand Americans.  Their goals are to preserve and share stories, build connections between people, and create a more just and compassionate world.

"At StoryCorps we like to say listening is an act of love," says StoryCorps mobile tour site manager Morgan Feigal-Stickles. "It's this idea of coming together with somebody you care about and just sitting down with them and paying attention to them and only them for forty minutes."

Courtesy of StoryCorps

Des Moines resident Gurwinder Singh Kapur moved to the United States in 1987 to study at the University of Kansas. Gurwinder had originally planned to return home to Singapore after finishing his degree, but he fell in love with America and decided to stay.

Courtesy of StoryCorps

Mary Madsen and Nancy Muhs are sisters, but they call themselves best friends. Together they faced the deaths of three of their six brothers due to Hunter Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that only affects boys. The life expectancy of those with Hunter Syndrome is about 10 to 15 years.

Mary and Nancy stopped by the StoryCorps booth in Des Moines recently to share remembrances of their brothers, and to talk about how they dealt with the knowledge that they could have passed Hunter Syndrome on to their own children.

Courtesy of StoryCorps

Mary Campos is a longtime Des Moines community activist. She was the first Latina to serve on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and to be inducted in the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame.

Mary came to the StoryCorps mobile booth in Des Moines to talk with her cousin, Dawn Martinez Oropeza, who spoke with Mary about her childhood and the incident that led to her longtime involvement in civic engagement and civil rights. 

Story Corps is a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people.

Reflections on Resiliency

Aug 25, 2017
Courtesy of StoryCorps

Joann Ray has lived a life of struggle. After growing up on a farm in Temple Hill, Iowa, she went on to face multiple marriages and divorces. She worked three jobs while raising eight children and found time to go back to school and earn a nursing degree.

Earlier this month she stopped by the StoryCorps mobile booth in Des Moines with her son Steve Riley to talk about Steve’s childhood and Joann’s career path.

Story Corps is a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people.

Resisting Hate

Aug 24, 2017

The racial violence that occurred in Charlottesville last week has ignited an intense, nationwide discourse about race in America. Many people are unsure how to broach the subject of race, as well as the differences between free speech and hate speech.

Drake University

The Metro Arts Alliance of Greater Des Moines is ending operations after nearly 42 years, citing a lack of grant funding. 

The alliance is perhaps best known for arts education programming and the annual Jazz in July series, which celebrated its 35th year this summer.

Executive Direct Angela Ossian wouldn't say whether the drop in funding was from government or private sources, or both.

Photo Courtesy of Amber Causey

Amber Causey is a distinguished Army veteran with a master's degree in criminal justice and she is a mother. She's competing for Ms. Veteran America 2017 in October and is hoping to go to law school. She's also a survivor of human trafficking. 

She says after her mom was incarcerated when she was 13, a lot about her life changed. She moved in with her dad, who was abusive, and ended up running away from home and dropping out of high school. 

Courtesy of StoryCorps

Anders Haglund is not your average 12-year-old. He’s observant, insightful, and, according to his mom Jenna, unfazed by the pressures of middle school.

Anders and Jenna stopped by the StoryCorps mobile booth in Des Moines to talk about personal integrity, the social hierarchy of middle school, and what they each hope his future holds.

Story Corps is a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people.

Finding Joy After the Loss of a Child

Aug 18, 2017
Dr. Richard Deming, Chuck Cutler, and Diane Cutler / Courtesy of StoryCorps

Charlie Cutler of West Des Moines is remembered by friends and family for his infectious smile and cheery disposition. In 2016, Charlie died after a three year battle with cancer. He was 26 years old.

His parents, Diane and Chuck, and his oncologist, Dr. Richard Deming, medical director of Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines and founder of Above and Beyond Cancer, came to the StoryCorps mobile booth in Des Moines to describe how they honor Charlie's legacy after his death.

Deb Zeller

A 20-inch bronze statue in Sioux City has been stolen for the second time in as many years. “Goddess of the Grapes” was reportedly taken sometime around the end of June from the downtown area, though the Sioux City Art Center waited until July 17 to report the theft to police.

Flickr / Phil Roeder

This year, the Iowa State Fair’s youngest thrill seekers will be able to enjoy rides and games away from the faster, taller, scarier rides that are geared towards older children or adults.

Thrill Town is designed for the families who are still pushing around strollers. The idea is to create a calm, kid-friendly atmosphere that’s away from attractions like the "Haunted Mansion" or "Spaceroller."

John Pemble

The Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison is home to more than 300 of Iowa's most dangerous inmates, or otherwise known as "lifers." Hundreds of other men serving time there will eventually return to their communities.

Sixty Years of Seventy-Six Trombones

Aug 3, 2017
Steve Gibbons

December of this year marks the 60th anniversary of the premiere of The Music Man on Broadway; it was written and composed by Mason City native Meredith Willson.  In this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores what the musical says about Iowa and why the music and story have remained popular.

First, we visit the Des Moines Community Playhouse, which has one last weekend of performances of their production of The Music Man.  We hear from actors Brad Church and Katy Merriman who play Harold Hill and Marian Peroo.  

Drugs, Clemency, and Freedom

Aug 1, 2017
photo submitted

In 2004, Mandy Martinson was addicted to methamphetamine. She helped her drug dealer boyfriend as a way to feed her habit, but when her home was raided and drugs were found she received a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison. She received clemency last year and is now home rebuilding her life. During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Martinson about her long road to freedom and recovery.

Photo couresty of Kittie Weston-Knauer

Kittie Weston-Knauer is not your typical retiree. At the age of 67, she's the oldest female BMX athlete in the country.

She started racing after her son got into BMX. When given the choice to sit around and do nothing or compete, she says she will always choose to race and will continue with the sport for as long as she can. 

"I have always been competitive," she laughs. "Look, I grew up with five brothers."

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Cooper

Iowan Sarah Cooper recently finished one of the most grueling bike races in the country, Race Across America, placing 10th overall. She was the first woman to cross the finish line. If riding her bike 3,000 miles across the country wasn't hard enough, she did the second half of the race battling a condition called Shermer's Neck, which left her unable to hold her head up. 

Can I Pick It? Garden Harvest Advice

Jul 28, 2017
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Chiot's Run

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulturists Richard Jauron of Iowa State University Extension and Aaron Steil of Reiman Gardens.

Tomatoes are relatively easy to check for ripeness, but other garden fare can be tough, especially with underground vegetables.  

For new potatoes, Steil says that you need to wait until the tops dieback.

Sarah Boden/Iowa Public Radio

To some visitors, the corpse flower smells more like garbage than rotting mammal. The rare Sumatran plant, also known as Titan arum, is believed to be the first corpse flower of this variety to bloom in Iowa.

Titan arum was expected to blossom last week, but the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden says scorching temperatures of high 90s likely delayed the plant’s unfurling. Cooler weather has arrived and the garden's staff says the corpse flower opened and began emitting its infamous stench sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 am on Tuesday.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

The corpse flower at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens still hasn’t bloomed and last week's scorching temperatures might be to blame.

This variety of corpse flower, Titan arum, comes from Sumatra, an Indonesian island known for its rugged, tropical terrain. For this reason, you’d think the plant fared well during last week’s scorching temperatures.

Michael Leland/IPR

This year’s RAGBRAI route includes six pass-through towns that have never before participated in the annual, week-long bike ride across Iowa. Those communities are Thornton, Lawler, Castalia, Postville, Waterville and Harpers Ferry. 

Lawler city council member John Ezer says he's excited that more than 10,000 RAGBRAI riders are biking through to his northeastern Iowa town on Thursday. Ezer calls it an opportunity for his community of fewer than 420 people to show off their businesses and nonprofits.

Omar Bárcena / Flickr

Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected interviews with more than 400,000 Americans across the country. Now StoryCorps' mobile booth is coming to Iowa.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with the founder of StoryCorps, David Isay, interview facilitator Emily Janssen, as well as Iowa Public Radio's Katherine Perkins, who reminisces about the stories collected the last time StoryCorps was in the state. She says that facilitating interviews and producing the stories that came from them was a life changing experience.

Courtesy of Rodney Lewis

Rodney’s Kitchen is a new restaurant in downtown Waterloo. It started as a catering business and small 

counter service, but the owner Rodney Lewis just opened at a new location downtown with a menu that mixes American grill, soul food, and Mediterranean dishes.

Like any other restaurant owner, Lewis is hoping to secure a loyal clientele with great food and great service, but he also has another mission. He’s giving away lunches to local kids who need them, because he says he knows what it’s like to be hungry. 

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