A film crew visited Art Cullen at his home in Storm Lake. (Hazel Pictures)

Newspaper editors are rarely at a loss for words. But Art Cullen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Storm Lake Times, paused for a moment when asked to describe a new documentary about his family’s newspaper.

“It’s beautiful and it’s overwhelming,” he said. “When you’ve been on the other side of the camera your whole life, it’s weird seeing yourself as the focus. You’ve been taught since journalism school that you’re not the story.”

But that story — about the paper and the family who keeps it running — plays out in the quiet drama of “Storm Lake,” which premieres…


With one eye on the past and the other on “The Trail Ahead,” the upcoming 2021 Preserve Iowa Summit (June 3–5) will look two ways at once: back to Council Bluffs’ colorful history as a trailhead for explorers and settlers and, ideally, forward to a bright future where communities across Iowa use history to create a unique sense of place and shared identity.

Gretchen Sorin

But the way forward is dotted with reminders that historic preservation hasn’t always brought everyone along for the ride. …


Historic downtown Council Bluffs

One of Google’s biggest data centers is in Council Bluffs because Abraham Lincoln made a surprise visit to the city one afternoon in August 1859. He’d been campaigning in Kansas when a steamboat captain offered to shuttle him up the Missouri River to Iowa, where locals led him up a hill and pointed way out west to show him a potential route for the first transcontinental railroad.

When Lincoln did, in fact, choose that route in 1864 (over several fiercely competing alternatives), Council Bluffs became the hub of a vast national network of railroads — along which telephone lines and…


River Glen Breitbach

Talk with the northeast Iowa musician River Glen Breitbach about his next project, and you can imagine him shouting “Ollie, ollie, in come free!”

Frustrated by the “hide-and-seek” nature of entertainment options imposed by the Covid pandemic, the Iowa Artist Fellow is calling out fellow Iowa musicians and fans for “We Are Here,” a free concert that will be live-streamed May 29 from xBk, a live music venue in Des Moines.

It’s “a celebration of Iowa music with a diverse array of artists and sounds from across the state,” he said. “It’s an acknowledgment that artists are being forced to…


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…

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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