Do not miss the “tape show” at the Des Moines Art Center

It is way cooler than it sounds, this show with giant site specific installations by artists who,use tape as their medium. Check out the photos here for proof. Our long overdue visit happened to coincide with an open house for kids and families from Findley Elementary School who worked with one of the artists on a installation of colorful bouquets taped  onto the gleaming white exterior of the Richard Meier wing. How cool is that? The kids seemed so excited to be the belles of the ball at the art center which threw a reception for the kids complete with servers with trays of delicious looking kid-friendly appetizers including grilled cheese sandwiches. And in the I.M. Pei wing long tunnels made of very strong tape were strung across the galleries, strong enough for kids and even their parents to crawl through. I love that the art center was willing to do that! Continue reading

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for future reference West DSM: The Foundry!

A hall full of food truck fare?
Sounds interesting!

Looking forward to checking out The Foundry which opened recently in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction. See: Details here!

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Regina Spektor at Hoyt Sherman in DSM!

The invigorated Hoyt Sherman continues to offer great performances, most recently one last Monday by one-of-a-kind singer/songwriter Regina Spektor who soldiered her way through 2.5 hours of performing almost completely solo on stage, sometimes accompanying herself on piano or guitar, even singing a Capella, while battling bronchitis. Pretty gutsy and very talented. So pleased that Hoyt Sherman is once again offering phenomenal shows (Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams, Regina…to name a few)!

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NYC Ballet at Iowa City’s new Hancher

What a treat to see the NYC Ballet for the first time in ages – and the first time in Iowa. Apparently, this was the company’s first visit to Iowa City, so I’m guessing it’s the first visit to Iowa since Iowa City hosts the state’s best dance performances (although Des Moines is improving!). The company was superb, as always, and it was a particular treat to see Iowa City native Miriam Miller dance – including in a sensational, sensual duet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (who choreographed The Joffrey’s new nutcracker, which we saw last year during our first visit to the new Hancher.) Speaking of which, the new Hancher is stunning —  I like it better than the old one. It feels smaller, more intimate, more vertical than horizontal, more peaceful with calming colors (seafoam green, grey, tan wood) and plush upholstered seats. Having sat in the balcony and on the floor, close to the stage, I’m not sure there is a seat with a bad view. (Our floor seats were way off to the side but we saw the vast majority of the stage.).
Dinner was a Takanami– for sushi and tempura, which was a nice change from all the heavy food we ate in the Deep South. We couldn’t deal with more burgers, ribs or fried chicken. We were tempted to try the new (or new to us) Szechuan Chinese restaurant, Bashu, that opened where the Linn Street Cafe used to be but it looked a little too authentic for a before-theater/meal. Didn’t want to get an upset stomach.  Locals seem to be loyal to Szechuan House.

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North from Bentonville through Missouri Ozarks to Kansas City and then home

After a quiet night at our airbnb in Rogers, we dropped in at the hip happening coffee shop in downtown Bentonville, Onyx, which was buzzing, on a Sunday morning no less. After a few jolts of caffeine, we drove north through Missouri, passing what seemed like many road signs advertising Jesus, guns, churches and anti-abortion.

Stopped for gas in Lamar and toured a local outlet of the “Beef Jerky Warehouse,” which had more varieties of jerky than imaginable and some interesting T-shirts. We were taken aback, while reading a little wall sign about Lamar’s history, to see a casual mention of the KKK meetings (once) held in town.
In Kansas City, where the fall colors were most spectacular, we had lunch with a favorite relative, Uncle Kenneth, on the Plaza at the Parkway Social Kitchen. Not bad. Particularly appreciated the servers, who were gentle and kind to our elderly relative, which was much appreciated. The drive home to Iowa – where the trees also have turned fiery reds, yellows and oranges during our one week away – was also uneventful.

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Crystal Bridges, 21c Hotel/ Hive, Oven & Tap — Bentonville, AR

IMG_1952Another “hit” (vs miss) as expected in this perfect little north Arkansas town brought to you by Walmart. This is our second trip to Crystal Bridges and the museum continues to vow. The setting, deep in the woods; the architecture, a dramatic series of curvy buildings in and around a small lake; the art work, a fantastic collection of American art, especially the last 50 years or so; a classy restaurant dining room with terrific food; what’s not to like?

IMG_1004The drive north from Hot Springs, especially the initial stretch on two lane highway 7, was spectacular. Curvy winding roads up and around and down woods-carpeted mountains, really gorgeous.

IMG_1018After the museum, we visited the 21c museum hotel downtown, ultra modern with a museum on its walls of very interesting art and a stylish restaurant called Hive where we had a drink, sitting under a big piece of plastic  orange honeycomb with a big toy bee hanging out in it. Tonight we had an excellent dinner at Oven and Tap  downtown– edamame, meatballs, fried chicken. Can’t complain.

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21c

Tonight we are at airbnb # 6, all good. It’s a nondescript little house in a suburban subdivision in nearby Rogers, with a comfy bed and bath and the owner is away camping so again, just us.IMG_1958

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Shack Up Inn/Cat Head in Clarksdale, Helena/Arkansas and Hot Springs

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Shack up inn

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Hot Springs bath house

This trip has been very hit or miss, with places I am glad we went and others I could do without. Sadly Hot Springs is a miss. Haven’t been here in 28 years and it seems down at the heels and sort of spooky. We are staying at a spiffed up motor court and although the owners have done a very good job of tarting it up, the neighborhood is shabby, with a very unspiffed up motor court (Dame Fortune, which we found via airbnb) a stone’s throw away and some shuttered old hotels.  It’s also at a busy intersection so lots of loud cars and motorcycles. (I’m getting fussier in my old age…) The famous old baths downtown look faded and the crowd is a bit rough.  Dinner was at Deluca’s Pizza, which was good except for the service and the weird glamour shot photos on the walls.

 

We did have an interesting day, driving backroads through the cotton fields of the Delta and the still-dying towns. Helena, Arkansas, which I have visited twice before, is still desperately poor, although there are valiant efforts at redevelopment.

Helena chef

In a food shop downtown, a nice chef whipped us up some sauteed shrimp atop a baked potato seasons with rosemary and garlic. We ate it outside, sitting on park benches atop the levee, looking out at a loading dock on/near the Mississippi River. We drove back roads to Hot Springs…another America, Trump’s America, faded towns and worn-out  places.

The day began with a visit to the Shack Up Inn, a collection of old shotgun shacks and cotton bins converted into lodging in a field south of town. Noah and I stayed in one of the shacks almost 10 years ago. The place has grown — there’s now a suburb (“Shackville”) adjacent to the original cluster and a new funky office/store/restaurant/ music venue. A very small wedding was taking place during our visit. We also stopped in at Cat Head, a blues music and folk art store run by a passionate and very knowledge blues fan originally from Ohio. The town still looks pretty bombed out and the black neighborhood in particular is very poor but it still seems to draw lots of blues fans, especially foreigners. I was sad to hear that Rat, the kind man who owned the famous Riverside Hotel died. He gave us a very memorable tour of the hotel 10 years ago. (He was an older man then.)

We also drove through to Friars Point and Lula, two desperate towns just north of Clarksdale en route to Helena. No change there that I could see.

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