Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Arts Guide

Tent Cities in Tall Corn Country

Picasso defined artists as children who never grow up, a metaphor encouraged by the school-like calendar upon which the traditional arts keep time. As if oblivious to the invention of air conditioning, the art world still closes shop and heads for the hills and beaches at the first signs of hot weather. For centuries, summer arts festivals have been held almost exclusively in resorts from Salzburg to Spoleto and Newport to Carmel. In Des Moines, however, national reputations have been built against such winds of tradition.

By sheer force of their personalities, the late Mo Dana and Maestro Robert Larsen created two summer festivals of national repute in Central Iowa. Somehow Dana and Larsen persuaded itinerant artists to pitch their tents in the heat and humidity of the corn belt summer. Then they convinced the locals to support these gypsy artists with endearing enthusiasm. Together they transformed the very image of Iowa summer while inspiring other festivals.

Like a state fair for shoppers, the Des Moines Arts Festival (DMAF) now fills the city’s hotels and restaurants with visitors from near and far. Under Dana’s patronage, DMAF morphed from a sleepy day in Greenwood Park to downtown’s biggest weekend, a three day, 180 vendor, multi-stage, pyrotechnically enhanced carnival flattered of its alternative imitator - ArtFest Midwest.

Like corn itself, Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO) thrives in heat and humidity, drawing the tassel of star singers, on summer break from the cultural capitols of the world, to the silk womb of Indianola. This year DMMO’s festival detours its traditional recipe of one tragedy, one comedy and one modern opera with a season of relentless romance in which larger than life harmonies tell three classical tales of love, jealousy and fate. Soprano Carter Scott makes her Iowa debut as the tragic Tosca while DMMO favorites Jane Redding, John Osborn and Jeffrey Springer return in other starring roles.

Those two gypsy festivals have even inspired brick and mortar arts institutions to bump up their summer programs. Des Moines Art Center is riding a hot streak of nearly four years of non-stop record breaking exhibitions. This summer, they bring back Tara Donovan whose eye-stopping sculptures dazzled in earlier group shows. Donovan’s first solo exhibition is so big it will take over both the Grand Avenue and Downtown DMAC museums, the first time that’s ever happened

Des Moines’ gallery scene has grown exponentially since Art Fest began. Only Kavanaugh and Olson-Larsen galleries are still around from those days. The latter provides its annual Summer Landscape show showcasing popular Gary Bowling, Dave Gordinier and Bobbie McKibbon. If Midwestern fields and streams don’t quench your thirst, the gallery follows it up with an exhibition of textile art from Central America.

Reflecting a recent run of good fortune, the youthful Moberg Gallery is introducing back gallery shows of “New Artists” and “Small Works” by not so new artists. Those play supporting roles to Ignatius Widiapradja’s meditations on metaphysics, memory and transcendence and to the return of prodigal son Anthony Pontius, back from New York City with his classical takes on similarly deep subjects.

The Cedar River Valley art scene enters post-flood stage this spring when Cedar Rapids Museum of Art reopens some shows postponed from last year simultaneously with new shows. Elsewhere, Grinnell’s Faulconer Museum takes a contemporary look at artistic reflections on the prairie while Decorah’s Vesterheim takes an historic approach to the same subject.

(*APT* indicates a special Art Pimp tout)

Recurring Events and Family Attractions

Thursday Night Art Walks in downtown Newton

First Friday Art Walks, Fairfield Town Square

Special Events


Des Moines Metro Opera Festival (Simpson College, Indianola,

May 29
Cabernet Night Live
An evening of standards and show tunes mixed with musical favorites from Broadway and American opera presented by DMMO’s talented Apprentice Artists. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks round out this evening of great entertainment at the Temple for Performing Arts. $50 ( 50 % reduction)

June 10
Threads & Trills Costume Show and Luncheon 12 p.m. Holiday Inn & Suites, Jordan Creek
A sneak peek at the costumes from the upcoming season’s operas while enjoying arias and duets sung by principal artists from each show. Lunch is included with the purchase of a $40 ticket.

June 11 & 13
Peanut Butter & Puccini Family Opera Adventure
Kids and adults take backstage tour of the opera. Learn about wig and makeup application, lighting, etc. $10 includes lunch. *APT*

June 19 - Ju1y 12
The 2008 Season *APT*

“Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini (June 19, 26, July 1 & 4, plus matinees on June 21 & July 12)
In love with the young painter Cavaradossi but desired by the ruthless Chief of Police the beautiful and tempestuous Floria Tosca finds herself caught in a web of jealousy and intrigue.

“Der Freisch├╝tz” by Carl Maria von Weber (performances June 20, July 3, 7 & 11 plus a matinee on June 28)
From its famous overture to its stunning conclusion, music plays harmony in this classical fantasy that married the devil and birthed German opera.

“The Barber of Seville” by Gioacchino Rossini (performances June 27, 30, July 8 & 10 plus a matinee on July 5)
DMMO favorites coloratura Jane Redding and tenor John Osborn return to reprise the misadventures of the world’s most famous barber.

July 9
“Stars of Tomorrow” Concert, (Sheslow Auditorium, Drake University). *APT*
DMMO's Apprentice Artists perform arias and ensembles at Sheslow Auditorium. $20 and $10

May 31, June 3, 6, 11, 13, 20, 24, 27, July 2, 4, 7, 9
“Apprentice Artist Program Performances,” times vary (Lekberg Hall, Des Moines Social Club, Sheslow Auditorium)
The troupe performs scenes and entire acts from both popular operas and rarely seen works. Most performances are free!

June 13-14
Iowa Sculpture Festival (Maytag Park, Newton,
The 7th annual event brings big bronze and steel art to Maytag Park for a hands-on experience of meeting artists, picnicking, swimming and watching comedians, magicians, balloon animal makers, etc. $1 and $2.

Des Moines Arts Festival (Gateway West, June 26 - 28
The only festival grand enough to inspire copycats, critics and loyalists, plus national rankings. We’re Number 5! And, yes, someone does actually rank art festivals, according to sales. The three day, free event brings national artists of all media to the river banks of downtown Des Moines, with all the food and music that a festival needs to turn shopping into a mega-event and source of civic pride.

ArtFest Midwest (Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, )

June 27 - 28
Piggybacking on the big shoulders of DMAF, the sixth annual “Other Art Show,” boasts lots of demonstrations ( glassblowing, pastel portraits, lampwork jewelry, pottery etc.) free parking and regional chauvinism. Over 225 artists will be showing, with approximately 40% from Iowa and 90% from the Midwest. The fest is now calling itself the “largest fine art show in Iowa.”

Art Stop
Sept. 11-12
The third annual shuttle bus tour of Central Iowa’s art galleries, studios and museums.



Art Dive (1417 Walnut St., )
Des Moines alternative gallery plans alternative exhibitions. Be surprised.

2AU (200 Fifth, West Des Moines)
Beach boys of Ipanema and mermaids of Tahiti mix it up with Tanzanian gems this summer.

Des Moines Social Club ( 1408 Locust, Ave. )
Circus, wrestling, tai chi, akido, theater, belly dancing and other acts of sociability make the club’s Instinct Gallery the most non traditional in town.

Susan Noland Studio Gallery (902 42nd St.)
The psychological properties of gems are front and center in this master goldsmith‘s repertoire.

Limited Engagements

Olson-Larsen Galleries (203 Fifth, West Des Moines, )

Through June 20
“Landscape Show”
New works by the gallery’s big picture stars Gary Bowling, David Gordiner and Bobbie McKibbon *APT*

“From the Earth”
New works by Michael Brangoccio, Wendy Rolfe, Betsy Margolius and Priscilla Steele

June 25 - July 18, reception June 25
“Textiles of Guatemala: Tapestries & Rugs by Mary Zicafoose”

Des Moines Social Club

Through August 29
"Animal Instincts"
Michelle Holly has gathered the most eccentric flock of artists seen here in years. Several have professional names befitting an underground venue - Bosko, Macix, Rudy Fig, Netherland, M@r$h, Kettlefart, etc. Some go for double entendre jokes like Macix’s “Shaved Beaver” and others for the shock value of anthropomorphic animals (Christopher Umana, Rudy Fig), parasitic insects (John Stuart Berger), teddy bears on crack (Chris Bent), mythological hybrids (Jeremiah Kettner) and Kafkaesque nightmares
(Jason Scott Hoffman). At DMSC they hang their hats on the same rack as more traditional artists like Vanja Borcic and Jamie Fales, who contributed a meticulous triptych of Keane-like girls modeling living hat wear.

Moberg Gallery

Through June 19 - August 1 (reception June 19)
“All Is Vanity -Ignatius Widiapradja"
Articulation on multidimensional reality, faith and memory by Des Moines’ existential artist. *APT*

“Small Works Exhibit” by various gallery artists

August 7 - Sept 19 (reception August 7)
“Anthony Pontius”

New York painter returns to Iowa.

“New Artist Exhibit”

Heritage Art Gallery (111 Court Ave.,
June 7 - July 30
“Iowa Exhibited 24”
The best of an annual statewide arts competition.
Through September 18
Fred Truck "Ten Year Sandwich"

The thoughtful inconclast brings his best takes on corporate images, individualism, war and terror. All intertwine in his exploration of identity and its dissolution. In a bomb series, Truck arranged sculptures in a medicine cabinet - because “terrorists believe that a bomb can make everything well.”


Des Moines Art Center (4700 Grand Ave., )
May 30
“Big Hair Ball: The Glamour of Illusion” APT
The Des Moines Biennial Celebration of kitsch in its frizzled, wigged out, bouffant glory.

June 9 - August 14
Summer classes. Day camps and family workshops. Call 271-0306.

June 19 – September 13, reception and preview party June 18
“Tara Donovan” APT
Sculptor Tara Donovan starred in a previous group show at DMAC and returns for her first solo exhibition of eye-fooling installations that transform large quantities of mass-produces items—toothpicks, adhesive tape, drinking straws, buttons, straight pins, plastic drinking cups, and Mylar—into stunning spectacles that defy expectations. Gallery talks on July 9 (Grand Avenue), 16 (downtown).

July 19
“Art Inside Out” (noon - 4 p.m.)
International celebrations of all things arty.

Through Sept. 6
“Before Anime”
Prints from the Japanese imagination.

DMAC Downtown (8th and Walnut St.)
June 19 - Sept. 13, reception and preview party June 18
“Tara Donovan”
The first show so big and mind boggling it requires both DMAC buildings to hold it.

Ankeny Art Center (1520 SW Ordnance Rd. )
June-August in Main Gallery
“Virginia Ocken”

June in Side Gallery
“Art Martinez”

August in Main Gallery
“Kemlyn Tam Bappe”
The Peranakan-American returns to Central Iowa with paintings of faith and inspiration.

Brunnier Museum of Art (University Museums, 290 Scheman Bldg., Ames, 515.294.3342, )

Through August 2010
“Exquisite Balance: Sculptures by Bill Barrett”
Minimalist modernism.

Through August 9
“N. C. Wyeth: America in the Making”
Beloved Saturday Evening Post illustrator from the golden era of that medium.

The Vesterheim (523 W. Water St., Decorah,
Through July 5
“Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905-1920”
Photographs of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island from all over the world.

Through Spring 2010
Artifacts and images from the Sami people.

July 12 - October 11
“Knitting along the Viking Trail”
Knitwear designed by Elsebeth Lavold with intertwining and runic motifs from the Viking Age.

July 23 - August 31
“Flashback: Norwegian Landscapes in Retrospect”
Photographs comparing historic and comtemporary Norwegian landscapes.

July 18-25
“National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition”
A competition and sale of works by contemporary artists in the Norwegian tradition.

Faulconer Gallery (Grinnell College,
June 12 - Sept. 6
“Below the Surface: A 21st-Century Look at the Prairie”
Contemporary views of our place in the world and its natural history, infused with overtones of the cultures that now live on this former sea of grass.

June 12 - August 28
“Small Expressions”
Annual exhibition of small scale works is limited to fiber techniques such as weaving, spinning, basketry, felting, beading, and papermaking.

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (410 Third Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids),
May 30 - August 16
“John Buck: Iconography”
An overview of the Iowa-born, Montana-based, John Buck’s 40-year career in printmaking and sculpture

June 20 - August 16
“Under the Big Top”
In celebration of Iowa’s importance in the development of the circus (the Ringling brothers were from McGregor, Iowa), the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art will install two galleries of circus imagery from its own collection.

Re-opening May 30 till further notice
“Malvina Hoffman: Rodin's Last Student”
In 1985 and 1986, the CRMA received a large number of plaster and bronze works by Malvina Hoffman. In 2003, Hoffman's magnificent Bacchanale Frieze was permanently installed in the Museum's Carnegie Wing. A substantial exhibition of her work, however, hasn't happened for some time.

“Mauricio Lasansky Master Printmaker”
Lasansky combines a spectrum of graphic techniques including etching, drypoint, aquatint, and engraving.

“Art in Roman Life”
More than 50 works, including 21 Roman portrait busts

University Museum (3219 Hudson Road, Cedar Falls),
June 8 - August 15
“Slow Food to Fast Food” APT
The way America ate and eats.

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