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A Meskwaki pictograph, from about 1830. (State Historical Society of Iowa)

While Iowa marks its 175th anniversary this year, the State Historical Society of Iowa is taking a deeper dive into the past during Iowa History Month, which begins March 1.

The month-long celebration, as proclaimed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, includes a new museum exhibition, a statewide book club, at-home activities for children and families, and an array of online presentations all about Iowa history.

This is “a time to learn more about the people, places and points of pride that helped define our state,” says Susan Kloewer, who leads the society. …


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Artists lead virtual Creative Sessions organized by the Living Proof Exhibit in the Quad Cities.

All the virtual activities that have popped up online over the last year — concerts, tours, how-to classes — help people feel connected when they’re physically apart.

That’s especially good news for cancer patients, whose immune systems were compromised even before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

For more than a decade, a Quad Cities nonprofit called the Living Proof Exhibit has helped cancer patients, survivors and caregivers tap into the healing power of the arts through workshops and exhibits. …


Over the last year, ballet dancers weren’t the only ones “pivoting.” Musicians, performing artists, filmmakers — and their fans — have improvised so many new routines that some are likely to stick even when more venues reopen.

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The Iowa Arts Council launched its new “digital stage” for just that reason. Even amid the challenges and opportunities of a global pandemic and a reinvigorated national movement for civil rights, Iowa artists and performers have kept creating work and expanding the boundaries of digital media — and audiences have been eagerly listening and watching.

“The digital stage is really an effort to…


Old places “serve as reference points for measuring, refreshing, and recalibrating our identity over time. They are literally the landmarks of our identity.”
— Tom Mayes,
Why Do Old Places Matter?

In 2018, the State Historic Preservation Office launched a statewide survey to document the sites and share the stories of the 20th century struggle to achieve full civil rights for African Americans in Iowa. Funded by a grant from the National Park Service, this project is the first of its kind in Iowa.

One of the most important buildings the project documented is the large union hall in Waterloo…


If you could tell a story — any story — to the entire state of Iowa, what would it be?

That’s the essential question at the heart of “The Film Lounge,” an annual showcase of Iowa filmmaking featured on Iowa PBS. The fifth season of this television series premieres Feb. 6 with a mix of short films that focus on, among others, a lighthouse keeper in Ireland, a guy who skates down the California Coastal Highway, and a husband who worries his wife might replace him with a mail-order clone.

The films are limited only by their creators’ vision and…


If you could tell a story — any story — to the entire state of Iowa, what would it be?

That’s the essential question at the heart of “The Film Lounge,” an annual showcase of Iowa filmmaking featured on Iowa PBS. The fifth season of this television series premieres Feb. 6 with a mix of short films that focus on, among others, a lighthouse keeper in Ireland, a guy who skates down the California Coastal Highway, and a husband who worries his wife might replace him with a mail-order clone.

The films are limited only by their creators’ vision and…


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Photo: visitmasoncityiowa.com

At the famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, you don’t have to wonder what the walls would say if they could talk. In a sense, they actually do.

The greenroom behind the stage bears the signatures of hundreds of stars who have performed here over the years, from Alice Cooper to ZZ Top.

Few places in Iowa — or in the world — conjure up the sounds of the past as vividly as this beautifully preserved ballroom on the north shore of Clear Lake. Iowans are justly proud of it, and now, other Americans can be, too: On Jan. 13…


The cars at Carney & Sons have seen better days. Windows are shattered or missing. Wheels are long gone. Stacks of flattened sedans and pickups, some piled a dozen high, cover 45 acres on the south side of Ames.

Most people call this place a junkyard, but Levi Robb sees it differently.

“This is a goldmine,” he says. “It’s just about changing your perspective. It’s about how you look at stuff.”

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Levi Robb visited the Carney & Sons junkyard in Ames in October 2020. (Iowa Arts Council)

The Des Moines artist and architect is drawn to what he calls the “beautiful chaos” here among the Toyota and Buick carcasses that have been cast aside and forgotten…


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Donna Reed in a 1950s studio portrait (State Historical Society of Iowa)

When the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Donna Reed’s birthday, on Jan. 27, different generations will remember the actress differently. To the Greatest Generation, she was a sweetheart. To Baby Boomers, a mother. To many Millennials, she was a benefactor, thanks to her namesake foundation that has helped launch hundreds of careers in the performing arts.

And to Iowans, she was always one of us.

This year, her home state plans to honor her life (1921–1986) and enduring legacy with a virtual tribute on her birthday, commemorative displays at the Donna Reed Heritage Museum in her native Denison and…


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Donna Reed in a 1950s studio portrait (State Historical Society of Iowa)

When the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Donna Reed’s birthday, on Jan. 27, different generations will remember the actress differently. To the Greatest Generation, she was a sweetheart. To Baby Boomers, a mother. To many Millennials, she was a benefactor, thanks to her namesake foundation that has helped launch hundreds of careers in the performing arts.

And to Iowans, she was always one of us.

This year, her home state plans to honor her life (1921–1986) and enduring legacy with a virtual tribute on her birthday, commemorative displays at the Donna Reed Heritage Museum in her native Denison 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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