Joe Jennison’s Top Five

Top Five reasons that I’m glad I live here.
By: Joe Jennison

If you’re ever out and about in the Corridor’s arts and culture scene, chances are you’ve seen Joe.  He is the fearless leader of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance.  Visit his organization’s Web site at and you’ll have access to an amazing events calendar as well as Joe’s insightful blog.    

1.      Grant Wood History

Grant Wood lived in Eastern Iowa his entire life and all but two of his most famous pieces were painted here. He was born in Anamosa and lived in Cedar Rapids from 1901 to 1935, and lived in Iowa City from 1935 to 1942. Each of these cities have history to explore, including houses where he lived, paintings on display and churches, homes, museums, schools, chapels where he worked, built and/or left a lasting legacy. His most famous painting, “American Gothic,” was painted in Cedar Rapids at his home and studio, 5 Turner Alley.  Although the painting is owned by and is on permanent display at the Art Institute of Chicago, the home and studio where it was painted is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Check out the country’s largest collection of Grant Wood art and craftwork in the world at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

2.      Summer Festival Season

From the first weekend in May until the last weekend in August, summers in the Corridor are chock full of summertime festivals. Often, during the summer, we have three or four festivals to choose from. And, almost every community in the Corridor has at least one festival, which usually includes a parade and live music and something really great grilled or fried and thrown on a stick. This is the time of year that we are all able to see the very best of the Corridor on display in our community from the Czech Heritage of Houby Days to Solon’s Beef Queen to the Iowa City Jazz Fest to the local music and history of Lisbon’s Sauerkraut Days. All of these festivals are free and fun and a hoot to take part in.

3.      River Walks

There are two main river walks that I take quite often.  The walk along the bike trail along the Cedar River from Second Avenue to the 16th Avenue bridge in Cedar Rapids, and the walk along the Iowa River from the University of Iowa Memorial Union to Hancher Auditorium. Both of these walks stroll past several cultural attractions. In Iowa City, take the walk past the Old Capitol, University of Iowa Museum of Natural History and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.  In Cedar Rapids, take the walk past the Cedar Rapids Public Library, the Science Station, Legion Arts at CSPS, the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa and the National Czech & Slovak Museum of Library. And, yes, do take the time to stop into one of the museums along the way.

4.      Opportunity to create

This is a community where all of us can have the chance to flex our creative muscles alongside like-minded people who care about art. Groups like New Bohemia and Harvester regularly offer visual art shows open to anyone interested, groups like the James Gang and Legion Arts offer community performances. And groups like the Mount Vernon Area Arts Council and Summer of the Arts and Habeas Corpus regularly offer all of us a chance to be a part of a community art project or festival. There are groups devoted to life drawings and independent film and dance and puppet shows and composing music. Whatever your interest, here in the Corridor, you will find not only a place to see live examples of art and theater and music and dance, but you also will be regularly asked to pick up a brush or a microphone or a pen and join in. Please do take advantage.

5.      Iowa Cultural Corridor Innovative Excellence Awards

OK, this IS a bit of a shameless plug. But this is one of my favorite events of the year. Once a year, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance, the organization I work for, puts together an award show that highlights innovation and excellence in the Corridor in each of the following categories: Theater, Festival, Music, Dance, Visual Arts, Education and Children’s Programming. The event usually takes place the last Monday of January at either Theatre Cedar Rapids or the Englert (rotates annually). At last year’s festival, we had about a dozen performances from around the Corridor including a children’s group, a professional chamber ensemble, an opera singer, a 17-piece big band, and more… This is the opportunity for all of us who enjoy arts and culture to show up and thank those organizations that provide it to us. Saying thanks at this event is no more than the cost of a ticket and you also get a great show.  See you there.


One response to “Joe Jennison’s Top Five

  1. James Knigge

    I love Cedar Rapids,IA – well the C.R. I remember until I moved west to CA. in 1964 and to
    San Pedro,CA in 1968. The C.R. I remember, had the East Side Maid Rite for drinking beer and meeting girls. There was no fighting in those days. It was the watering hole for that famous college on 1st Ave. Most of the girls I met were in church groups – you know the kind you would take home to meet your mom, but there were a lot nice girls that came to the Maid Rite too and I took them home to met my mom.
    I moved to C.R. in 1953 with my family. They had bought a house @ 435 4th Ave S.W. I finished 6th grade at Taylor School and went on to Roosevelt (Rough-Rider) Jr. High. We had a curfew then and I think we kids had to be home by 9:30 p.m. In 7th grade I became a C.R. Gazette Newspaper Carrier and also held a job at Don’s Grocery Store at 6th St & 3rd Ave S.W. after I delivered my papers. In the winter time I worked for a Polish Born Rabbi by stoking his furance on saturday morning and at noon. Orthodox Jewish were not allowed to touch the flame after sundown on friday to sundown on saturday. During the (2) years that I worked for him, he happened to tell me about the Horrors of WWII. His wife and him were the only ones in there families that lived to tell about it. It left a lasting impression on me. on sat morning we would collect our moneys and ride our bicycles to Gazette to pay our paper route bill. From there I would go to the C.R. Carnegie Lib and read about the civil war history and IA history.
    All bicycles had to be lic by the C.R. Police Dept. My bike was lifted (3) times because I forgot to lock it up – but because it was a Lic bicycle, I got back each time. In those days if you came home with someone else’s bike your parents would be taking you to woodshed. We would never talk back to our parents. I could ride all over C.R. on my 1954 Green Schwinn 3 spd Traveler Bicycle. I even rode to Central City and back, to qualify for my B.S. Cycling Badge. We had church dance parties that were the cats meow. Nothing stronger than Pepsi. My father was very stern, that would not be able to have a car until I was (18) which I got a 1954 Buick 2dr green & white with a straight 8 & a 3spd manual tranny. I luv’d that car. After graduation I went to work for Collins Radio and learned how to become Milling Machine Operator. I took every class Collins educational Dept offered.
    I still have that green Schwinn Traveler that was bought at Hall Bicycle Shop. aI also still drive a (newer)Buick. We had dancing @ Danceland & Armar Ballroom.

    C.R. would still be a fine place to live. It has those bicycle trails. Great Churches and schools. A good town to raise a family. C.R. was the parlor city of IA. I don’t know why C.R. would give up the old YMCA at 1st Ave & 5th St. N.E. that was well above the flood plain.

    Well I am now 68.5 years old and live the clean good life with my CA wife of 42 years. She trained and saved me. There are a lot of good Iowa girls that would make good wives too.

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