Film fans from the 2019 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival (Photo: Digital Dubque)

For its 10th anniversary, the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival is going big. Organizers of the April 18–25 event have decided to combine the films that were supposed to be screened last year with a fresh batch of films for 2021. So here’s a quick look at the numbers.

Days: Eight — up from the usual five.

Films: 256 — double the usual.

Visiting filmmakers: 200.

Visitors: “I’d be thrilled if we had a couple thousand,” says Susan Gorrell.

The festival typically draws about 6,000 visitors to downtown Dubuque. …


During the past year, the State Historical Museum of Iowa has collaborated with Iowa students and teachers to overcome the challenges of online learning.

Beginning this month, the museum’s new Virtual Exhibit Experience for Schools will strengthen those connections by giving teachers and students opportunities to examine artifacts and explore Iowa history from the comfort of their homes and classrooms — all with guidance from a museum staff member.

“Teachers from across the state have been using our digital history resources in growing numbers over the past year,” said Jennifer Cooley, the museum’s education and outreach manager. …


An activity from the 2019 Iowa Fine Arts Education Summit in Ankeny.

It’s been 35 years since Robert Fulghum published “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” The best-seller suggests how the world might be a better place if everyone practiced sharing and being kind and cleaning up after themselves.

Today, many education experts suggest those lessons also can be learned in the arts classroom. Students who learn how to sing, dance or paint develop other skills in the process, such as showing empathy, building relationships and expressing emotions in healthy ways.

At the Iowa Fine Arts Education Summit, to be held online on June 17, educators, artists and…


Historian Kenneth Lyftogt is writing a trilogy about Iowa and the Civil War. The first volume, published in 2018, received a Shambaugh Award Certificate of Merit, with which the State Historical Society of Iowa honors superior historical scholarship that Iowans who love history will enjoy. The second book in Lyftogt’s trilogy is both.

Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 2: From Iuka to the Red River” (Camp Pope Publishing, 2020) picks up where the first one left off. It chronicles the siege and fall of Vicksburg, Iowa’s role in splitting the Confederacy and the failed Red River invasion of Louisiana…


Iowans are familiar with Grant Wood, or at least, they’re familiar with his art. “American Gothic” and “Arbor Day,” which was used as a design for the Iowa quarter, come to mind. Those who have visited the library at Iowa State University know of his murals. Places he lived in Anamosa, Stone City, Turner Alley in Cedar Rapids or his home in Iowa City are also known to many.

But people may not be as familiar with the man, Grant Wood.

There are many books and articles on Wood and his art, but a new book, “Grant Wood’s Secrets,” (University…


The clack of the wheels, the roar of the engine, and the wail of the whistle are sounds that are imbedded in our culture. Even though most Americans no longer travel by train, the allure remains.

Many Americans are familiar with the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company, better known as the “Rock Island Line.” Because of a popular folk song, many will add that the Rock Island was a “mighty fine road.”

Thanks to historian H. Roger Grant, we now have a history of that railroad and its impact on the economic and social development of Iowa and…


To mark the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, the Iowa Arts Council is sharing stories of Iowa Arts & Culture Emergency Relief Fund grantees who have demonstrated strength and ingenuity in the face of adversity.

Stephens Auditorium in Ames

Performing arts presenters and venues have faced unique challenges throughout the pandemic. Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University is no exception.

When the 2,602-seat venue closed last spring, the programming team was wrapping up its plans for the 2020–2021 season, which would feature world-class orchestras, popular Broadway musicals and international touring artists.

Instead, the iconic venue and presenter found itself…


Cook’s Point and Holy City — two barrios, or neighborhoods, that once thrived alongside the Mississippi River in Davenport and Bettendorf, respectively — attracted many of Iowa’s early Mexican migrants.

Contrary to popular thought, Mexican migrants arrived in Iowa long before the 21st century waves. Many individuals and families traveled north in the early 1900s for several reasons, notably the impacts of national and world events.

Ray Martinez in the Davenport neighborhood of Cook’s Point, with the Mississippi River in the background, around 1950. (Adella Martinez papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries)

Oral histories, photographs and documents from Cook’s Point, Holy City and other communities are preserved in the Mujeres Latinas collections of the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries, and they help…


Someone once told me they really didn’t understand why I cared about Iowa history when, “nothing really happened here.”

My friend, the famed Iowa historian Tom Morain, often said that “our approach to our history is shaped by that history itself.” History did happen here, and it’s not insignificant. But if we operate as if “nothing happened here” or what did happen here doesn’t matter, the long-term impact on Iowa students and our communities will be profound.

During Iowa History Month, Raygun is selling Iowa history T-shirts and donating a portion of the profits to the Iowa Historical Foundation.

There are countless Iowa stories you may have never heard.

Alexander Clark, a prominent African-American leader, sued when his daughter wasn’t allowed to…


A Meskwaki group gathers beside a summer shelter in their settlement in Tama County around 1910. (State Historical Society of Iowa)

The Meskwaki are a persistent people.

The French sought to exterminate them in the 1700s but did not succeed. The Meskwaki allied with the Sauk and adapted their Great Lakes culture to the prairies and woodlands of present-day Illinois for almost 100 years, until they were pressured to move again.

This led to the conflict known as the Black Hawk War of 1832, which ended with the defeat of the Native nations and accelerated the U.S. government’s efforts to push out the Sauk and Meskwaki. …

Iowa Culture

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs empowers Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to resources. iowaculture.gov

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