New Year, New You
Eagles & Ivories
Theater in Muscatine
Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry
In this issue New Year, New You. . . . . . . . . 2 Eagles & Ivories. . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Community Foundation . . 11 See It, Spot It, Catch It!. . . . 12 Art Center. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Art Center: Behind the Scenes . . . . . . . . 16 Theater in Muscatine . . . . . 18 GMCCI Recap . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 On the cover
This incredible bald eagle cover photo was provided by local Muscatine photographer, Mark Washburn. See more of his work, visit his Instagram page at instagram.com/markwashburnphotography.
Nutrition, Science, and Technology
Muscatine MAGAZINE Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry 100 W. 2nd St. • Muscatine, Iowa 52761-4027 563-263-8895 Muscatine Magazine is published quarterly by: Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry 100 W. 2nd St. • Muscatine, Iowa 52761-4027 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ISSN 2475-7128 Editor: Rebecca Paulsen, GMCCI Creative Director: Mike Shield, Shield Design
Contributors: Rebecca Paulsen, Mike Shield, Tina Roth, Jennifer Conard, Jen Simmering, Beth Van Zandt, Cali Van Zandt, Melanie Alexander, Virginia Cooper, Jessica Hubbard, P.M. Cantrell For advertising info: Contact Rebecca Paulsen at (563) 263-8895 or email@example.com Muscatine Magazine is a quarterly publication focused on Muscatine, Iowa, and the surrounding area. The publisher reserves the right to refuse and/or edit any materials submitted for publication. Published articles and advertising do not constitute endorsement. ©2019
Hello 2020! If you are anything like me, despite the digital world we live in, you may still keep a paper calendar of some sort. There is always something refreshing about laying out a fresh, blank calendar.
Rebecca Paulsen, Editor of Muscatine Magazine
A blank calendar, like a blank page, is full of so many possibilities. It’s nice to pause for a moment and realize that in so many ways our days are not yet written. This January the feeling is especially strong since we are not only beginning a new year, but a whole new decade. If
we are lucky, we will have this feeling just a handful or two in our entire lives. As the new decade begins, I would like to encourage you to take a moment and just breathe in the possibilities. Even if you are not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I would like to encourage you to try something new this year. As you read through this issue of Muscatine Magazine, I hope you feel inspired to do just that – whether it be a new physical activity, getting involved in a theatre group, or attending an event you have not been to before. Magazine contributor Jen Simmering has put together a list of lots of ways you can get involved and active this year. I’m excited for you
to read through it, there are so many possibilities waiting for you all without having to leave town.
— Rebecca Paulsen, Editor
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Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 1
It’s that time again. The year is fresh and new, and we are all looking toward our goals for the future. A 2019 market survey by YouGov reports that two-thirds of people who make resolutions for the New Year say their goal is to “exercise more”. The same study reports that 20% of those resolutions are broken within the first week. But yours doesn’t have to be one of the broken! Muscatine offers some great options for adults looking to feel a little better, have a little fun and get some exercise along the way. Here’s a guide to a variety of ways to get moving this winter in Muscatine. By Jen Simmering
22 Muscatine 2020 MuscatineMagazine Magazine••Winter Fall 2019
FOR SNOW LOVERS
According to the Norwegians, there is no bad weather, only bad clothes, so bundle up and enjoy the outdoors. Muscatine is full of paved and unpaved trails for winter walking and biking when the ice has melted. Try the Arboretum and the Riverfront for smooth, wide paths that can accommodate wheelchairs, strollers and groups who want to walk together. The trails in the woods at the Discovery Center and the disc golf course are great for snowshoeing, as well as the forested areas in the northern part of Wildcat Den. Fuller Park has popular sledding hill; just watch out for that creek at the bottom! If you’re looking for a bracing cold weather experience, Deep Lakes Park remains open in the winter, and there is often enough open water to put a kayak in for a quick paddle. Wool socks are highly recommended. If cold water isn’t your thing, the Muscatine Dog Park off Houser Street will be open all winter to play a snowy game of off-leash fetch with your best friend.
FOR SPORTS FANS
According to Mel Steckel at the Y, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the US, and the Y offers a variety of options to learn how to play. Pickleball is essentially a game of ping-pong played on a tennis court. Players use a large paddle to hit a whiffle ball back and for the across the net in matches for singles or doubles. Pickleball can be enjoyable for any fitness level, and the Y staff are happy to help you find a group to play with that fits your needs, from beginner to competitive. For the traditionalist,
there are abundant opportunities to join a pickup basketball game in the evenings, and informal adult volleyball leagues are gaining popularity among Y visitors and members. Or put together your own group and rent the gym at the Muscatine Center for Social Action for a nominal fee. Golfers can try out Bridgeside Links to stay at the top of their game on the virtual golf simulators
IF YOU NEED MOTIVATION
Some of us need a little outside structure to meet our goals, and Muscatine has no shortage of formal fitness programs. If you like discipline in your exercise routine, Riverbend Tae Kwon Do Academy offer classes for adults and children to develop physical-wellbeing and increase confidence. Warrior Crossfit offers personalized plans and coaching to help you stay on track. Also consider virtual coaching. There are many apps available that can coach you through physical improvement. Now is a great time to use an app like Couch to 5K to train for one of our local races like the Race for the Schools scheduled for May 2, 2020. Four months is plenty of time to get ready, even if you’ve never run a 5K before.
FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED LOW IMPACT ACTIVITY
Sponsored by the Muscatine Parks and Rec Department, the walking club at the Muscatine Mall earns prizes for accrued mileage in the quest to “walk around the world”. The program is free. All you need to do is fill out the online registration form on the Park and Rec website and then log your miles walked in the book in the center court of
the mall. The Y offers several classes for those who need to take it slow, including water exercise, chair-based toning and the Rusty Hinges program designed for people with arthritis or similar conditions. The pool at the Y has a lift so that wheelchair users can easily join in, and some of the weight machines are also wheelchair friendly. A quick Google will provide a list of yoga options in Muscatine for those looking for a mind/body experience that works for all fitness levels.
FOR FOLKS ON A BUDGET
Other than the outdoor activities available at our parks and trails, a great way to get some exercise on a budget is volunteerism. Both the Y and Parks and Rec offer youth sports activities, and adults are always needed to coach and support the youth teams. The Special Olympics program, headed up by Jason Miller from the Y, has volunteer opportunities and a Unified golf team where community members and Special Olympians compete on a team together. Special Olympics volunteerism is also a great way to learn a new sport from one of the many experienced athletes in the program. Did you know Muscatine has a Special Olympics snowshoeing team? They’d love to teach you how to do it! There are also financial aid options available at the Y to offer reduced price membership based on income. n
Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 3
Eagles & Ivories Ragtime Festival One of a Kind By Tina Roth
4 Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020
It’s not an obvious marriage: eagle watching, ragtime music and cold, icy Iowa in January. But it’s a formula that has proven successful for past 26 years. “I think we are the only festival like it,” said Dave Ales of the Muscatine Arts Council and one of the founders of the event. “You are not going to find another one that ties musical entertainment with eagle watching.”
“The Muscatine Arts Council was looking for ideas for events for the community,” explained Ales. “We pitched it to them, and they thought it was a good idea. I never dreamed it would go this long.”
The brainchild of Ales and fellow Arts Council member, the late George Lindle, the idea for a ragtime festival was born when the two visited the famous Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, the area considered to be the birthplace of ragtime.
“We have good support from the community and a lot of volunteers. We could not do it without them,” added Ales about the event which is sponsored jointly by the Muscatine Arts Council and the Muscatine Convention & Visitors Bureau .
This year’s Eagles and Ivories Festival, slated for January 23 through 26, features live music concerts at several venues around town. A selection of regional, national and, even, internationally-renown artists will offer a repertoire of the festival’s signature ragtime musical fare as well as classical, jazz, Broadway hits and more. In addition, there are seminars, a silent movie viewing and, of course, the eagles. A free eagle-watching program will be held Saturday afternoon at Pearl City Station and hosted by Dave Bakke of the Muscatine Discovery Center and County Conservation Board. (See sidebar for the weekend’s complete order of events, locations and admission prices.) According to Ales the festival has expanded considerably from those first years when it was held at the 1st Baptist Church downtown. Most markedly, those first years did not feature eagle watching predominantly in its name or activities. “We did not stress the eagles early on, “Ales admitted. “But the eagles are prevalent that time of year, and having a January festival enables us to schedule performers easier. It just seemed like a natural partnership to include eagle watching in the events. Three years into
it, we changed the name officially to Eagles and Ivories.” The unique pairing of ragtime and eagles has been magic. According to Ales not only do they draw visitors to the festival from out of town, but also internationally. He estimates between 1,600 and 1,800 people take in at least one event over the course of the weekend. (The festival offers a variety of door prizes at the individual events that allows them to track visitor demographics.) Another visit to Sedalia, Missouri forged the relationship with ragtime artist Jeff Barnhart, who along with his flautist/vocalist wife Anne is the popular Ivory and Gold ® which has become the mainstay of Eagles and Ivories. Barnhart also now serves in the capacity of music director along with Ales. A native of Connecticut, Barnhart is an internationally known pianist, vocalist, band leader and recording artist. “It was magic,” Barnhart recalled of his first Eagles and Ivories festival gig. “I went home and said to my wife, next year you have to come with me!” While he and Anne and have played the coasts, the big cities and even interna-
tionally appearing on stages in six of the seven continents, his heart is in the small town performances and festivals like Eagles and Ivories. “Coldest festival with the warmest heart,” laughed Barnhart. “I love the eagles, love Muscatine and performing there. “I love the small town community spirit; the warm people,” he added. “We have played London, Zurich, Tel Aviv, but festivals like this one in Muscatine area the ones we remember.” After the first three years, the Council was forced to search for a new venue for the growing event, as the church being used was sold and the new owners were not interested continuing the relationship. It was then that they approached Wesley United Methodist. And they have been there ever since. “Wesley is the perfect fit,” explained Ales. “They have a beautiful Steinway and Boston upright. And the sanctuary has beautiful acoustics.” The relationship has been mutually beneficial. Church members host preconcert meals and music – soup on Friday and a “Syncopation Supper” on Saturday night Continued on next page —
Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 5
“We are fortunate to have so many wonderful venues for this event,” said Ales. “The addition of the cabaret seating event adds a more conversational, casual feel.” Barnhart is particularly proud to see Eagles and Ivories growing stylistically over the years, as well. – which they use as an opportunity to raise funds for missions. They also offer a jazz/ragtime service on Sunday morning that, while not sponsored by the Arts Council, features artists performing at the festival. The dinners definitely bring people out,” said Barnhart. “People can have a complete evening out. This is just an all around grassroots effort. It is why communities like Muscatine are so special.” As the festival has grown, so has the slate of venues for the musical offerings for the weekend. The weekend now includes multiple locations as well as Wesley, including The Muscatine Art Center, Sunnybrook Assisted Living and, most recently, the Merrill Hotel. “The Merrill is world class,” said Barnhart. “It has really upped the ante to entice performers to come and stay here.” Kicking off this year’s festival is the Thursday night cabaret-style concert event at the Merrill Hotel. This is the 2nd year for the cabaret event, which was added last year to celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary. In addition, the Friday and Saturday after hours concerts featuring local bands the Mad Creek Mudcats and the Locus Street Boys will be hosted at the Merrill. EAGLE PHOTO BY MARK WASHBURN
6 Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020
“We have gone beyond piano. And it was strictly ragtime when we started it and while it still is, primarily, we have been also offering classical, early jazz, swing, and Broadway hits. Anything in the first half of the 20th century,” Barnhart explained. The diversity of music has appealed to a broader audience range. “We focus on crowds of every age and background,” stressed Barnhart. “As our reputation gets out, we are getting crowds from all the Midwest states and even people that make the trip from the coasts to see it. “When we first started the festival, it definitely attracted an older crowd, but lately our audience is looking increasingly younger crowd, “ he added. He is particularly excited this year to book Carl Sonny Leyland, a boogie woogie specialist out of California, which he feels will appeal to new people. “We have no definite theme this year,” explained Barnhart. “But we will be offering music unlike what they have heard before. Some of it will be approaching a little bit of rock and roll, which is a big stretch for us. I think it will be a great draw and bring in more age groups.” In addition to divesifying the concert line up, in the last 10 years Barnhart
started hosting the screening of classic silent movies to which he provides the narration and piano accompaniment. In addition to the public viewing on Saturday at the Muscatine Art Center, Barnhart also hosts a special viewing for students at Jefferson Elementary. “Just cultivating a young audience,” said Barnhart. “The kids love it. I tell them that now they know more about ragtime music and silent movies than their parents.” The other daytime event for the festival is, of course, the eagle watching which this year will be January 26 from 9 a.m. to 2p.m. at the Pearl City Station. Bakke and other area raptor specialists will be available with scopes and binoculars to watch the eagles perching and diving along the Mississippi. Eagle enthusiasts can also view eagles from the visitor center at lock & dam16. A special raptor program in conjunction with the RARE (Raptor Advocacy, Rehabilitation and Education) group from Iowa City will be presented at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. In addition, various local conservation groups such a the Muscatine Pollinators, Muscatine County Master Gardeners, Muscatine Arboretum Branching Out and more will host booths at the Station to showcase their work. Visitors can also enjoy free coffee, hot chocolate and craft activities. This is the 2nd year for the program to be held at the Pearl City Station. Previous programs were conducted by the Army Corp of Engineers and held Wildlife Prairie Park in Illinois. “You can view the eagles anytime you want during the season, but what is nice about this event is the program and the use of the scopes and binoculars,” said Bakke. “It is also nice using the station — Continued on page 28
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Leaving a legacy By Jennifer Conard Hilda Weiss grew up in rural Iowa in a staunch German Lutheran family. Her world consisted of household and farmyard chores, school and homework, and, above all, church. She attended Zion Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran School, both in downtown Muscatine. Although it was a three-mile trip into town, Hilda’s father interrupted his farming to make sure she made it to and from school, until she was old enough to take a horse by herself. Education was important to Hilda’s family so they sent her to attend Wartburg College to study education. After graduation she taught at a Lutheran grade school in Ohio, and two years later moved back home to teach in Muscatine.
God’s Calling Hilda met her husband Bill Collitz in church. Bill had moved to Canada from Germany after serving in World War I at age 18. When the war ended, he was disenchanted with the state of affairs in his country. He had longed to follow his fellow countrymen and move to the United States. When he got that chance five years later, he moved to Muscatine where he became a loyal, conservative American patriot, and met Hilda. They began a courtship, going to the movies, and out for a hamburger and milkshake. While Hilda was away at college they regularly corresponded by letter. They were married on June 4, 1929. They had a daughter, Eleanor, and son, Ronald, who passed away in infancy. Hilda was very active with the Zion ladies’ missionary society and often wondered if God might be calling her
to be a missionary. But Hilda poured her heart into raising their daughter, helping Bill with their family owned grocery store, and staying actively involved at Zion Lutheran Church. She came to believe this was God’s true calling on her life. Life in the Collitz house focused on the beauty of simplicity and servitude, with a devotion to family.
Devotion to Family Their daughter Eleanor, like their mother, also attended Wartburg College earning her bachelor’s degree. She married and moved to Rock Island, starting her own family, and later, earning her master’s degree. The importance of education was instilled in her by her family. Eleanor would bring her own children to visit their grandparents regularly. Grandma Hilda would prepare dinner while one of her grandkids played the old upright German piano. After dinner, Hilda would bring out the monthly Lutheran devotional booklet, letting one of the grandkids pick out a Scripture and read it. Bill and Hilda Collitz lived a long and happy life with Bill passing when Hilda was 78. Hilda lived until she was 104.
Continuing God’s Work Hilda thanked God “for his abundant blessings, which allowed her to provide for her family and assist God with His earthly work.” Her devotion to faith and family prompted her to create a charitable remainder trust with the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. The fund provided financial
stability for her daughter, Eleanor, through monthly payments until Eleanor’s death in 2018, with the remainder of the trust directed to local charitable causes annually through three granting funds. Because of her simple act of generosity, thousands of lives in our community have been bettered; a legacy of funding that will continue each year virtually forever. Hilda’s generosity to both her daughter and the community is an example of how a charitable remainder trust can provide for both loved ones as well as charitable causes important to the donor. Charitable trusts offer benefits such as avoiding capital gains tax on the sale of appreciated assets. If you would like more information on how you and your family can benefit from a charitable remainder trust, please contact the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. n Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 11
Local Baton Twirler Takes the Stage By Jessica Hubbard See it, spot it, catch it! These six words make up the mantra that runs through Emily Lerch’s mind as she prepares for competition. Focused and ready to take the floor, Lerch steadies herself before the judges. Baton in hand, she begins her routine. For Lerch, twirling has become second nature. Since the age of 8, Lerch has imagined herself on stage, performing for audiences and judges alike. After seeing now coach, Jessica Baker perform, she says, “I just knew this was what I wanted to do.” Lerch’s mom, Julie confirms this whole-heartedly, “Seeing Jessica twirling on stage, Emily was emphatic about learning baton.” They approached Coach Baker after her routine to find out what it would take to get Lerch started in the world of baton twirling, and one month later her dream came true. She’s been going strong ever since. At Iowa City studio, Ambition Baton and Dance, Lerch practices three nights a week between 3 to 4 hours each night. “To be good at the sport you must be dedicated.” Coach Baker cannot stress this enough. Baker goes on to say, “Baton twirling is such a unique sport and I like to describe it as an athlete that has the grace of a ballerina, the endurance of a gymnast, and the accuracy of a quarterback.” Lerch takes dance classes, baton classes, practices with her competition teams, and takes private lessons at Ambition. In addition to her time in the studio, Lerch spends countless hours on her own honing her skills. 12 Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020
And, her dedication to the sport is paying off. As the only majorette at Louisa-Muscatine Junior/Senior High School, Lerch is cornering the market on twirling. While baton twirling’s exact origin is unknown, according to the World Baton Twirling Federation it is thought to have started in Asia and Eastern Europe at festivals where participants used guns, knives, sticks, and torches to toss in the air and twirl. By the 1930’s, marching bands hoped to increase their appeal to audiences by adding one to two majorettes - a female dancer who twirls a baton, usually in a group and sometimes with a marching band - to their performances. In the 1950’s, the popularity of the sport increased, and twirling organizations came into existence. They organized competitions at the state and national levels as more and more young women began expressing an interest in becoming majorettes. When the 1960’s rolled around, baton twirling was more than just being a majorette; it became a competitive sport in the United States. As she moves forward in her twirling career, Lerch continues to be involved in a variety of competitions. Currently, she holds the title of Miss Burlington Outstanding Teen and will be heading to the Miss Iowa Outstanding Teen pageant in June of 2020. Both competitions are part of the Miss Iowa system and involve not only the talent piece of pageants, but also include formal interviews with judges, an evening gown competition, and a fitness segment.
halftime shows and concerts, parades, and specific basketball games. The Golden Girl title also means performances at the Band Extravaganza concerts at Carver Hawkeye Arena, along with a full ride scholarship to the University of Iowa. Both are esteemed positions in the world of baton twirling and Lerch knows the competition will be tough. “I prepare for competitions in studio and out, running through my routines and working on catching tricks - the twirls and tosses that make up my routine.” She knows she’ll have to give her all for the opportunity to be the university’s Golden Girl, and she has no qualms about putting in the time and effort to do just that.
This year alone Lerch has performed at the semi-professional Iowa Wolves Basketball game halftime, the University of Iowa men’s and women’s basketball halftimes, and 7 different high school basketball games across the state. And, she doesn’t plan on stopping there. Lerch’s goal is to prepare and qualify for the University of Iowa’s Golden Girl and the University of Northern Iowa’s Baton Twirler. Both positions are lone twirlers who are featured in a variety of the universities’ athletic events including band performances during football pregame and
A sophomore at Louisa-Muscatine Junior/Senior High School this year, Lerch’s life is a busy one. Not only is she practicing baton multiple nights a week, she’s also on the LM dance team, cheers at school sporting events, holds a 3.9 GPA, and participates in a number of art projects through the school including volunteer work to help support the community she lives in. Most recently Lerch and a classmate decorated boxes for a school supply drive for students in the LM school district. Lerch explains, “Students collect school supplies and leave them in the boxes for whoever needs them, no questions asked. Anyone can pick out items they might need.” While it may seem Lerch has little free time outside of baton twirling, competitions, and school, she doesn’t seem to mind. Her infectious smile says it all; baton brings her joy. Coach Baker concurs, “Between all of Emily’s hard work and competitions, we do have a lot of fun with performances across Iowa, parades or halftimes of basketball games.” n Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 13
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14 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2019
The Muscatine Art Center is located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine, Iowa. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday evenings until 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Hard Won, Not Done: Eastern Iowa Women Artists Invitational January 18 - April 12, 2020 The artists selected for this invitational represent a wide range of mediums as well as backgrounds and experiences. Through the artwork and written statements of two dozen Eastern Iowa women, the visitor to “Hard Won, Not Done” will encounter many different voices. Some of the works of art are deeply rooted in tradition while others spotlight current issues, and many both reference the past and voice modern day concerns. The committee included artists from different generations, ethnicities, and races, and also balanced considerations such as urban/rural, within/outside of university setting, and native Iowan/Iowa “transplant” from another state or country.
Panel Discussions – Women Working in the Arts Sunday, February 9, 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Thursday, March 26, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Eastern Iowa is home to many dedicated and driven women who significantly contribute to the local, regional, and sometimes national and international visual arts community. In these panel discussions, artists will share their life and
Free Programs for Kids & Families Kids’ Saturday Workshops For children ages 7 to 14, Julie Lear explores a new topic and leads a fun project for kids to complete in the studio and take home. Chinese New Year – Year of the Rat Saturday, January 18, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and
Artist Tara Moorman takes her family history a step further. Letters to My Ancestors presents a series of paintings celebrating her maternal grandmother’s lineage and inspired by family photos from the 1860s to the 1960s. studio experiences as they continue to develop skills and ideas, build community, and navigate a livelihood in the visual arts. Attendees are encouraged to come with questions or to share their own experiences. A list of the panelists for each discussion is on muscatineartcenter.org.
Letters to My Ancestors: The Watercolors of Tara Moorman January 18 - April 12, 2020 When looking at family photos, most people have old, faded photographs that capture a fleeting moment in time.
surplus. Learn about the Year of the Rat and make a Chinese New Year lantern. Register by January 17. Free of charge. Victorian Valentine Saturday, February 8, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. As early as the 1840s, it was popular to make Valentine’s Day cards using lace, bows, seeds, mirrors, and other materials. Children will select from various supplies to create their own handcrafted Valentine. Register by February 7. Free of charge.
Reception Sunday, January 19, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Cedar Rapids-based artist Tara Moorman’s watercolors were inspired by old photographs of her relatives found at her mother’s home. These photos allowed Moorman to connect with her ancestors, including Carrie Nation. Meet Tara Moorman, hear from the Muscatine “Hard Won, Not Done” committee, and learn about the many Muscatine area events and activities planned for 2020 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. n
National Days National Days are fun for the whole family! Free of charge. No registration is required. Drop in anytime between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. Inspire Your Heart with Art Day Friday, January 31, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. Kids and adults can be inspired by the power of art and make their own art project to take home. Tell A Fairy Tale Day Wednesday, February 26, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. Children and the young at heart can make a fairy tale inspired craft and listen to a fairy tale. The story will be read at 4 p.m. n Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 15
Museum registrar Virginia Cooper and registrar’s assistant Patricia Carver have both been working at the Muscatine Art Center for over 30 years. Together they work on documenting and archiving the items that come into the Art Center, install scheduled exhibitions, and so much more. As part of our collaboration with the Art Center, we interviewed them to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes. What is your role at the Art Center? Virginia Cooper: As a museum registrar, I catalogue, document and archive the collections as well as implement policies and procedures related to the physical ‘caring for collections’. Although my title does not state that I am a curator, I am also responsible for working directly with the collections to create exhibitions from those objects telling a specific story or cover a specific theme. I work with the museum Director to build up collections, address conservation issues, and install scheduled exhibitions. Patricia Carver: I am the registrar’s assistant on most days. I help her with documenting our collections-everything from researching, to accessioning, to computer documentation, to anything and everything she needs help with, 16 Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020
including decorating the mansion for Christmas. I also assist with exhibition installation, research & manage the glass collection, and all costume related tasks. It has been said that you work for the people of Muscatine, and that the collection belongs to Muscatine residents. What do you mean by that? VC & PC: The collections and archival materials are held in trust for the public and are made accessible for the public’s benefit. As an educational institution and keeper of the community’s heritage, the museum is expected to maintain the highest legal, ethical and professional standards ensuring that the objects the museum owns are available and accessible to present and future generations. So in effect, we work for
the people of Muscatine County, and maintaining a sense of trust is essential to our relationship with the community. What goes into adding an item into the collection? VC: Like most museums, the Muscatine Art Center operates with a written Collection Policy. This policy outlines the scope of collection. If a donated item fits within this policy, it is accepted into our collection, catalogued, and entered into our collection database. Objects are researched, measured, photographed, and designated with a storage location. Documents are then generated, recognizing the donation. There is a small budget for purchasing items for the collections. Items that are purchased, fill a very specific niche within the collection. PC: I personally catalogued the Art Center’s glass collection. I am by no means an “expert”, but I spent approximately 3 years researching glass with books, auction houses, and the internet to identify and catalogue the 2,000 plus pieces in our collection, most of which was gifted in 2007 from
an Iowa City collector. Each piece was washed, given an accession number, photographed, and recorded in our database, including information on the manufacturer, date of manufacture, special attributes and provenance. This process continues with each new addition to the collection, whether it is glass or another medium. The indoor environment of the Art Center is incredibly important. Can you tell us more about that? VC: When we accept an item into the collection, we are promising to maintain an environment suitable for the preservation of the objects in storage and on exhibit. Environmental considerations include security, temperature, humidity, light, pollution, dirt/dust, insects, and disaster response. Items are stored by ‘collection’, medium, and size, using archival materials in environmentally controlled spaces. Some items, such as works on paper and textiles, have time limits for display. All items should be stored in an environment with controlled temperature (68-72 degrees) and relative humidity (45-55%). This is achieved with a geothermal system installed in 2016-17. Supplemental humidification/ dehumidification levels are continuously recorded. The Muscatine Art Center must submit a lengthy facility report that describes climate control equipment, as well as recorded temperature/humidity readings, before any traveling exhibit or art loan is approved from other institutions.
UPCOMING EXIBITS 2020
You mentioned a written collection policy. What items do you typically take? What items do you not take? VC: The Art Center has been collecting or acquiring objects since opening in 1965. The Collection Policy states that we collect American fine art – paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, decorative arts – from 1800 to 1965. We have focused collections within that broad scope, such as Regionalism (Grant Wood, Marvin Cone, Thomas Hart Benton, etc.) and the River Collection, which includes prints, paintings, maps and sculpture related to the Mississippi River from the headwaters to the Gulf. The Art Center has always been a depository for archival and physical items related to the history of the City and County of Muscatine, as well as Iowa history. Items are denied for inclusion in the collections if they fall outside the scope of the collection, are in poor condition, are of poor quality, or are already represented in the collection. Do you have an item or collection that is your personal favorite? VC: No – there are too many choices. My favorites include McKenney & Hall Native American Prints, Currier & Ives ‘Hiawatha Series’ prints, George Grey Barnard sculptures, a pair of Flint Glass Jar related to the Daniel Dawley family, paintings “Clinton Night Loading” by Charles Robinson and Henry Hubbell’s “View of Alton”, a Robert Rauschenberg print, the portrait of LeGrand Morehouse and I love all Muscatine History items.
• Letters to My Ancestors: The Watercolors of Tara Moorman • A variety of mediums by 24 Eastern Iowa women artists for the exhibition Hard Won, Not Done • Annual Muscatine Schools artwork featuring middle/high school student work • Til Death: Wedding and Mourning Traditions from the collection • Realistic human form sculptures by Marc Sijan • Art Array Muscatine County Arts Council Juried Show • Local artists Dan Rohde and Jeff Weikert
PC: There are so many things I love, it would be hard to pick just one. I absolutely love the little Japanese Character Doll in the collection. Her hair stands completely on end-she reminds me of my dolls as a child. There are at least a dozen or more pieces of glass that are my personal favorites (truly I love it all). And of course, the Hiawatha series of prints! What are some of the more unusual items you have in the collection? VC: On a museum standard, the Art Center owns some of the rarest artworks, books and maps related to the Mississippi River. The George Grey Barnard “Bust of Laura Musser” as a child is one-of-a-kind. We frequently loan distinctive artworks to other museums across the nation. PC: The Fiji Collection gifted by Evelyn Hoopes Teegan, Ambassador to Fiji. What has been one of the most surprising things you have learned about Muscatine’s history? PC: I learn something surprising about Muscatine history every single day. Is there anything else you think the public should know? VC: The Art Center serves the local public on a daily basis, but we also make our collections and archives available for research and field inquiries, such as fulfilling requests from authors, filmmakers, publishers, geneologists, other museums and libraries and various individuals and organizations from all over the United States. The Program Coordinator, along with other staff and studio instructors, offer school programs, public studio art classes, art and history lectures, tours and occasional concerts. We are among the few dozen institutions in Iowa accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Being accredited is a significant achievement and is dependent in part on the Art Center’s ability to meet high standards. n
Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 17
By P.M. Cantrell
Shakespeare may have coined the phrase, but several Muscatine area theatre groups are making the stage their world, or at least a part of it. Whether you’re a budding thespian, veteran actor, marketing wiz, costumer, props researcher, or other crew, or a beloved patron and friend of the arts, there are numerous opportunities to participate or enjoy theatre in and around Muscatine. Community theatre groups include: Muscatine Community College Theatre, Pearl City Players Theatrical Society, New Era Dinner Theatre, and the Wilton Fine Arts 18 Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020
Guild. Louisa-Muscatine Junior-Senior High School, Wilton High School, and Muscatine Middle and High Schools all have active theatre groups as well. “People don’t have to go to the Quad Cities for quality performances. We’re striving for more attention for Muscatine theatre,” says Cali VanZandt, President and Children’s Director for Muscatine based Pearl City Players.
Area directors say there’s quite a bit of thought that goes into show selection. Alyssa Oltmann, MCC Director and Instructor of Theatre and English says she does a run through in her mind. “Do we have the numbers for it? Do we have a place for the people I know will audition and a place for people I don’t know who might like to audition?” She adds that she then settles on something she’s passionate about because that’s more likely to resonate with a cast and then an audience. MCC’s theatrical productions are open to the entire community and beyond, not just students. “I have been gobsmacked by not only the students, but community
members who continue to stick with what they love.” MCC will perform Legally Blonde on Valentine’s Day weekend. Oltmann says it’s the perfect show to celebrate MCC and its theatre’s 90th year. Rene’ Mauck, MHS Drama Director, agrees with Oltmann and says that the shows are often determined based on the talent pool. “The first thing that I look at is what would be a good season, a funny one, a serious one, what type of genre and how would that be different from the year before. Then I look at whether it suits the skill and style of the students and ask would
people want to come see this.” The MHS theatre department has a fall play and a spring musical. This year’s musical is “Into the Woods,” a fairytale adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Mauck, who collaborates with the MHS music department for the musical, says that this year’s selection was made because there are so many musically gifted students who would benefit from the challenge that this Stephen Sondheim musical would provide. Directors also look for ways to incorporate new talent. Young area actors have plenty of opportunities in and out of school.
Pearl City Players typically present three shows a year including a summer youth performance for children. VanZandt says no child gets turned away. “There are middle and high school shows, but parts aren’t guaranteed. Here anyone who auditions will get a part regardless of ability and experience.” The program started eight years ago with Alice in Wonderland. “We weren’t sure how it was going to go, but we ended up with 47 kids.” VanZandt says some of her students have since graduated from the program and have returned to help with the program as well. Continued on next page — Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020 19
Continued from previous page — The New Era Dinner Theatre performs in the late spring at the New Era Lutheran Church under the direction of Bill Turner. The shows are family friendly and often feature both child and adult actors as was the case for the last performance, Shrek. Turner says the blend of ages as worked well. “A youth show gets kids interested in theatre and sometimes it gets parents on stage that may not have performed since high school. We need kids on the stage to build our theatre community.” Turner calls the quaint rural location the Field of Dreams of theatre and says the sell-out shows are as much about the meal provided by church members as they are about quality performances. In addition to building the theatre community, the New Era Dinner Theatre also gives a portion of its ticket revenue to both a local charity and an international one, typically the Lutheran World Relief and the Muscatine Center for Strategic Action. A portion of ticket sales from MHS theatrical performances provides scholarships for students who may wish to attend college festivals and theatre events at Circa 21. The Wilton
Fine Arts Guild also uses a portion of its ticket revenue to help youth. Each year, the guild provides three $500 scholarships to students from Wilton or Durant High School. The guild also has a dinner theatre, which often opens with a show from the waitstaff, the HiLiters, but President Connie Hoestra says this year the group will have its biggest undertaking for years by performing The Addams Family Musical in March. “Maybe we’re crazy, but maybe we aren’t.” Hoekstra, says the group that once crammed its performances in a former tractor shop, has previously put on larger shows including The Music Man and The Sting, but it’s been awhile and she’s thrilled with the decision to do another large show. “We need this new blood and excitement.” Hoekstra adds that community theater is rewarding both to those who participate in it as well as those who experience it. “Especially in a community like ours. It allows you to step outside yourself and for a couple of hours, see people you know with backgrounds similar to your own, whether a farmer, teacher, or bank teller and think if I wanted to, maybe I could do this, or think, ‘I didn’t know so-and-so was that talented.’” n
If there’s one thing all area directors say it’s that every good show needs an audience. “We want
TAKE A SEAT Upcoming Theatre Events January 9: Wilton High School, The Dance Company, a one act play that will be used for area speech contests
February 1 & 2: Muscatine Middle School, Legally Blonde, Jr. Muscatine Center for Performing Arts/ Central Middle School 14-16: Muscatine Community College, Legally Blonde Muscatine Center for Performing Arts/Central Middle School
March 13-15, 20 & 21: Wilton Fine Arts Guild, The Addam’s Family Wilton Community Center
April 3-5: Pearl City Players, Bleacher Bums The Missippi Brew 23 - 25: Muscatine High School, Into the Woods
butts in seats,” says Bill Turner, New Era Dinner
TBA: Louisa-Muscatine Junior Senior High School
Theatre Director and Pearl City Players board
member. “You cannot duplicate the energy of
8-10: Muscatine Community College, Proof
a live performance. It’s a magic that should be seen and experienced.” Ticket sales fund future shows, are used to purchase new equipment, and in some cases fund scholarships.
June: TBA Pearl City Players’ Children’s Theatre, The Walking Dwarves TBA New Era Dinner Theatre
Summer 2020 TBA Pearl City Players, Agnes of God
20 Muscatine Magazine • Winter 2020
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Muscatine Magazine â&#x20AC;˘ Winter 2020 25
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Eagles & Ivories Continued from page 6 — because you can go in and out, enjoy some coffee or cocoa, let the kids do a craft.” After last years bitter cold temps which resulted in fewer birds along the river, Bakke has hopes that this year will be more conducive.
“Hopefully, we’ll have better snow cover and warmer conditions to pull the birds in closer for better viewing,” Bakke said. Much like the perennial flights of the Eagles, the Festival has solidified itself as a Muscatine tradition and one that brings people to visit and explore the town. Muscatine is so fortunate to have the Eagles and Ivories Ragtime Weekend Festival for over 25 years, “ stressed Jodi Hansen of the Muscatine Visitors and
Convention Bureau. “The caliber of talent that is displayed throughout the weekend is extraordinary, not to mention the chance to see majestic eagles during the eagle- watching program. We hope visitors will not only enjoy the music-filled weekend, but have fun exploring our amazing community.” Besides, as both Ales and Barnhart jokingly concluded, “What else do you have to do in Iowa in January?” n
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