Cedar Rapids, IA

Posted in Uncategorized | March 12, 2008 | by emilyharney | (1) Comment

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Corn Starch Factory

Cedar Rapids is in Iowa state, west of Chicago. It could be termed the Midwest, it’s rural, called the food bowl of USA, mainly grain. It’s situated on the Cedar River, although the rapids disappeared since the building of the dam, and the river was lightly frozen. The population is 200,000, and it’s semi industrial, a huge factory making cornstarch dominates the city with its smoky towers. Cedar Rapids favourite son is Grant Woods who painted American Gothic, which is in the Chicago Museum, however the attractive local gallery is full of Grant Woods and other regional painters like Marvin D. Cone. We loved the snow. It was a novelty, though it was cold. Colin came down with a virus.

American Gothic

Frozen River, Cedar Rapids

CSPS exterior

Our presenters, Mel Andringa and John Herbert of Legion Arts, have been in the district for twelve years. They came from New York where they were involved in the art scene, Mel is a performer and artist himself, and they took over the venue CSPS (Czech Slovac Protection Society), a huge Czech meeting hall with a proscenium arch stage which they converted into a theatre and exhibition space.

Mel and John

Simply put, Mel and John are interested in presenting things that no one else is presenting.

Cedar Rapids Street 2

Flying into Cedar Rapids

It’s small town, with a strong community. We had several community gatherings with artists, photographers, and the Iowa Asian Alliance. Colin and I did talks at three schools/colleges. Mel was disappointed the local paper, The Gazette, didn’t run more of a story about us, but he said they were very parochial and really only featured local artists.

CSPS dressing room

John had seen “Shadows” at Under the Radar Festival in New York two years ago, still they had to be persuaded by Ann of MAPP to take the show, as they realized the difficulty in promoting the show and the cost involved.

CSPS stage

We did two performances. The auditorium held 50. We were more than half full the first night and the second we had to put out extra chairs. In hindsight Mel and John were sorry they didn’t run it three nights. The show had a big impact on the community, five people came twice. Everyone stayed for the discussions after the show. It resonated with the complex history of the Native American tribes (Sac and Meskwaki) of Iowa. We agreed the show was a big success.

Cedar Rapids Street