Story: Visual and Performing Art of Iowa

Visual and Performing Art of Iowa

Feb 23, 2021

Tired of being cooped up after a long Iowa winter? Wish you could play in a pond like a duck? Come on an adventure with Peter and learn all about the musical instruments of the symphony as you watch the Ballet Des Moines, the Des Moines Symphony and the Belin String Quartet perform “Peter and the Wolf.”

Here are just a couple of the highlights from the production of “Peter and the Wolf” that you will find in the Iowa PBS Performances collection on PBS LearningMedia:

Ever wonder how you know that the villain is just around the corner to jump out at the unsuspecting hero or heroine? It’s the music. The music sets the scene and helps to tell the story through a technique called leitmotif.

Professional musicians have learned the art of the leitmotif and how to let the music be a character in any performance. Learn more about what it means to be a professional musician from professional musicians John Helmich (first violin) and Jonathan Sturm (narrator and conductor) of the Ballet Des Moines production of “Peter and the Wolf” as they describe what it took for them to have a career in music.

Would you rather learn to walk like a duck or play a cat? Learn more about what it takes to become a professional dancer with a dance company like Ballet Des Moines with these two behind the scenes clips from “Peter and the Wolf.”

From opera houses to modern day theaters and performing arts centers, Iowans are known for their support of the creative arts and the people who produce artistic works. One of the most famous American works of art, “American Gothic,” was painted by Iowan, Grant Wood. Created using the painting style called Regionalism, this art and artist are so central to Iowa that the Iowa quarter is based on another Grant Wood painting, "Arbor Day."

But Grant Wood wasn’t the only Iowan famous for his artistic style and flare. Have you ever sang the lyrics “Trouble ...with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool.” Then you’ve quoted a famous line from a famous musical written by a famous Iowan. Meredith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa, in 1902. One of his most famous musicals was “The Music Man,” a musical comedy set in Iowa about the antics of a con man who falls in love with the town’s librarian. “The Music Man” officially opened in December 1957 on Broadway. The play ran for 1,375 Broadway performances—almost four years—and won eight Tony Awards (including Best Musical and Best Actor). The musical was made into a movie in 1962.

From central Iowa to eastern Iowa, the river town of Davenport, Iowa, in 1919 played host to a budding friendship of two Jazz greats—trumpet player, Louis Armstrong and a young Iowan who played the corent, Bix Beiderbecke.

From art, to plays, to music, Iowa is known for its rich, artistic heritage. Catch the performance bug with the help of Iowa PBS and the Ballet Des Moines’s Acts of Resilience series, or catch up on the life and times of some of Iowa’s artists by exploring the Arts & Culture theme in Iowa Pathways.