About the State Historical Society > News > 2011

State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release September 20, 2011

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

Art workshops, "Sing-A-Long Grease," and Smokey Smith discussion

State Historical Building to host three different events this weekend

DES MOINES – The State Historical Building will host three different events this weekend, giving visitors an opportunity to attend art workshops, sing along to a cherished movie classic, and meet a legendary country music promoter and entertainer.

This weekend will:

  • bring artists Susan Chrysler White, Beverly Ellis and Kindra Noel Wisniewski to the Historical Building in conjunction with Artstop
  • have patrons singing with Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) in “Sing-A-Long Grease”
  • let attendees meet Smokey Smith and purchase a book about his life and career in country music

More program details are listed below:

Artist Workshops
Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
4-9 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Artist Susan Chrysler White will be available to discuss two pieces of her work that will be installed in the State Historical Building as part of Artstop. The works are two kinetic (moveable) art pieces made of Plexiglass.

Susan Chrysler White received a B.A. degree from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.F.A. from the University of California at Davis. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists Fellowship; a residency fellowship at Yaddo Foundation; and a residency at the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. Solo exhibitions in 2004 included Littlejohn Contemporary, New York City; Chidlaw Gallery, Cincinnati; Karsh Masson, Ottawa, Canada. Other exhibitions include the Drawing Center, New York City; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Weatherspoon Gallery/Museum, Greensboro, NC; the Wooster Museum, High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Her work has been reviewed in ARTFORUM, Art in America, Art News and Arts Magazine. She has taught at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and in Rome, Carnegie Mellon University and the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, as well as other institutions. She is currently an associate professor of painting and drawing at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History in Iowa City.

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Children and families will be able to make a piece of art similar to those in the Susan Chrysler White installation 11 a.m.-4 p.m. during Artstop. Des Moines artist Beverly Ellis will conduct a workshop that will show participants how to make suncatchers with Plexiglass. No reservations necessary – participants may drop in any time to make art.

Ellis has been an educator for more than 40 years. She was the facilitator of gifted education for the Urbandale School District for 18 years. Currently, she is the chairperson of the Metro Arts Expo Children’s Activity Area, an artist-in-residence for the History Through the Arts Program, and an art instructor for Metro Arts Programs: MetroKids, ArtSmart, and GreenArts.

In addition, Kindra Noel Wisniewski – a graphic designer who is passionate and focused in creating functional and modern design – will be available for questions. Her target is to deliver clean, high-quality works that keep clients focused and excited throughout the creative process. She was selected as an Emerging Iowa Artist at the 2011 Des Moines Arts Festival.

About Artstop:
Artstop is a two-day visual and performing arts event. It is a cooperative event connecting six cultural districts in the Des Moines Metro including galleries, a museum, a sculpture park and artist studios. Grab your friends and hop on the free Artstop bus Saturday to get from area to area for a carefree discovery of the Des Moines Metro’s artistic treasures.

Sing-A-Long Grease
Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
7-10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011
1-4 p.m.
Tickets are $8/adults; $5 children 12 and younger; available ONLY at the door one hour prior to show time.
It’s the original High School Musical! This fun-filled sing-along features a pre-show costume parade and screening of the beloved film, “Grease” (1978). Wear your best poodle skirt and saddle shoes, biker jacket and shades, and bring your heartiest vocals for a frolicking ’50s sing-along. Thirty-three years after its release in theatres, “Sing-A-Long Grease” is making a resurgence with a new generation, thanks to contemporary films such as “High School Musical,” “Mamma Mia!,” and the current TV hit “Glee.” This digitally-remastered edition comes with six-track digital sound and pop-up graphics such as hearts and kisses illustrating the lyrics displayed on the screen. The film features enduring songs such as “You’re the One That I Want,” “Summer Nights,” and the Academy Award-nominated tune “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”  

Official movie site, with trailer: www.greasemovie.com. This event is family friendly, although the film is rated “PG-13” and parents should know there is some “suggestive” language/lyrics. Contact Sarah Oltrogge at sarah.oltrogge@iowa.gov or 515-281-4011 for more information.

Smokey Smith: Iowa’s “Mr. Country Music”
Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011
10:30 a.m.
Free and open to the public.
Author Terry Manley and country music legend Smokey Smith (Manley’s father-in-law) will participate in a “Historical Discovery Discussion” at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 24, 2011, in the State Historical Library & Archives Reading Room.

Manley will speak and sign copies of his new book, “Smokey: The Legendary Life of Iowa’s ‘Mr. Country Music,’” and Smith will answer questions about his life and career as one of country music’s most influential and legendary concert promoters. In addition, a Library & Archives Reading Room exhibit will showcase items donated by Smith to the State Historical Museum.

Manley’s book includes more than 300 never-before-seen photos from Smith’s personal collection of country music superstars performing at the KRNT Theater, and offers revealing but respectful recollections of his personal and professional relationships with stars like Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, Ferlin Husky, Kitty Wells, Carl Perkins and Charley Pride.

Smith’s career began in California, spanning most of the 1940s as a recording artist and ballroom singer. In 1950, he moved to Des Moines to become a popular entertainer and broadcast personality on KRNT Radio, where consistent high ratings earned him the area’s first live primetime country music television show when KRNT-TV began airing in 1955.

By then he was also promoting successful country music shows at KRNT Theater, prompting him to expand his regular events to six other Iowa cities and eventually across six other states. This distinction earned him membership into an elite group of promoters known as “package show specialists,” which controlled vast territory in their respective regions.

The Iowa visionary became an icon in Nashville’s entertainment community, not only for hiring every name act of the era, but also for providing significant leadership in 1953 during creation of the Country Music Disc Jockeys Association. He was treasurer of the group in 1958 and again displayed foresight by encouraging the membership to disband in support of creating a broader coalition called the Country Music Association. He became one of the first board members of the organization now recognized worldwide.

Smith was inducted into Nashville’s Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1982.


The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at www.culturalaffairs.org.
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