The pendulum swung swiftly.

House File 291 was introduced in the Iowa legislature on February 9, was passed by the House and Senate on February 16, and was signed by Governor Terry Branstad the next day.

Despite that speed, this was not some emergency measure. Instead, it was part of a pent-up agenda being unleashed, as Republicans enjoyed – really enjoyed – their first unified control of the legislative and executive branches of state government since 1998.

There’s a seemingly obvious reason Doyle Bramhall II was pretty much out of the spotlight between the releases of his 2001 album Welcome and last year’s gorgeously mature and textured Rich Man: The dude’s been busy.

As you might guess, the real story’s a bit more complicated – and interesting.

If you visit the Figge Art Museum to see Jefferson Pinder’s exhibit Ghost Light (see our review here), the artist will be satisfied if you leave enlightened. Or thoughtful. Or angry. Or confused.

He’ll also be okay if you see the neon sign reading “Colored Entranced” and choose not to enter the gallery.

When I met last week with the people now running Daytrotter, Ben Crabb – who books the recording sessions for the 11-year-old Quad Cities-based Web site – let this nugget drop: “I just booked George Winston in for a session.”

Yes, that George Winston, the artist best known for platinum-selling, seasonally titled solo-piano records from the early 1980s on the Windham Hill label. For a site that always prided itself on highlighting the new and the next, the pianist seems an odd choice.

Mocking the Oscars – or any made-for-TV awards spectacle with the fool’s errand of crowning the “best” in the arts – is a time-honored tradition. Sometimes it’s even important, as with last year’s backlash against the whiteness of that Academy Awards slate of Best Picture and acting nominees. (That paleness was a bit of an anomaly in recent times, as I’ll show in a bit.)

So let’s give the Academy its due: Expanding the Best Picture field – starting with 2009 movies – from five nominees to as many as 10 was a smart and ultimately necessary change with substantial benefits, no matter how you parse it.

It’s admittedly difficult to get your head around Illinois’ recently passed Future Energy Jobs Bill – a massive, long-gestating piece of legislation that touches on many aspects of energy policy.

Yet the legislation is worth exploring. It will be a major change in Illinois energy policy when it takes effect on June 1. And it’s an instructive study of the give-and-take of the legislative process – a case that was absolutely green and utility-friendly, but one that might not be nearly as kind to consumers as has been promised.

The most-famous work by the Guerrilla Girls is simple and direct, asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

The pointed text of the 1989 poster continues: “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

That work is more than a quarter-century old, but the Guerrilla Girls have updated it over the years – with the results just as discouraging. The 2011 version states that women represent 4 percent of the artists in the modern-art sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art but 76 percent of the nudes.

The work gets more complex as one considers it.


Composer Cheryl Leonard

Claire Kovacs is in her third year as director of the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art, and she said that from the outset she needed to answer one question.

“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about since the moment that I even considered coming to Augustana,” she said, “was ‘What is the purpose of an art museum when the Figge is across the river?’”

The answer can be seen this month in a pair of free public events: the Guerrilla Girls’ January 18 lecture in Centennial Hall, and the January 11 performance collaboration of visual artist Oona Stern and composer Cheryl Leonard in Wallenberg Hall.

If you hear that Flint Eastwood’s Small Victories was written after the 2013 death of leader Jax Anderson’s mother – and that it’s about that passing – you might make a couple of assumptions: that its creation was a solitary process, and that it’s sullen and pensive.

Small organizations tend to reflect the personalities of their leadership, and that’s certainly true of the Midwest Writing Center and its executive director, Ryan Collins.

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