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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Prairie Studies and Arts Council to host local musician


By Kelly Page

The prairie is a remarkably dry ecosystem, but this weekend Prairie Studies is hosting an event that will be anything but dry. On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies will team up with the Grinnell Area Arts Council to host a night of local food and music from Iowa City folk musician Pieta Brown. At 6:30 p.m., Middle Way farm will serve food prepared by Relish, and new local business Peace Tree Brewing will provide beer. After this reception, local band Pink Neighbor, which consists of Grinnell alums Erik Jarvis ’12 and Katie In ’13, will open for Pieta Brown at 7:30 p.m., commencing a night of music that celebrates Iowan prairie culture.

This is not the first time Prairie Studies has teamed up with the Arts Council. Last January they brought Iowa folk band The Pines to Grinnell, hosting a similar night of music. According to Jarvis, the Arts Council events manager, this collaboration benefits both the college and the community.

“From our perspective, the Arts Council, it’s really nice that the College is putting the funding behind this, and it’s a really great way for them to reach out to the community,” he said. “And then it’s a benefit for Prairie Studies to reach a different audience, and I think music is a really easy way to get people engaged.”

Jarvis and Prairie Studies Chair Jonathan Andelson hope that Pieta Brown will be an artist who is particularly engaging for multiple generations of Grinnell residents.

“We settled on her because she’s really good and her music can really speak to that prairie experience,” Jarvis said. “And a lot of other kind of Iowa songwriters don’t attract the younger demographic as well, so she’s worked with indie people like Bon Iver and Mason Jennings and has that kind of younger pull. And she does also reach the older generations cause she’s the daughter of Greg Brown, the really famous Iowa songwriter, so the older folks will know her as well.”

Brown’s most recent album, Postcards, features collaborations with contemporaries Calexio, Mason Jennings, Mark Knopfler and The Pines. It consists of musical postcards: she wrote songs and sent them to her friends and told them to respond to her in music. On her website, she says, “Collaborating with other musicians and elevating a song beyond its outlines has become one of my favorite things about making music.” These songs written like letters will be extremely interesting to experience in person.

Apart from just being a fun night of music, Pieta Brown’s performance will be a celebration of Iowa itself. In a press release about the event, Andelson states, “The arts play a crucial role in connecting people to the places in which they live and work by telling stories about place and inviting us to reflect on what it means to live in a particular place and not in some other place.” While eating food grown on local farms and prepared by local chefs and listening to music created by Iowans, it will be hard to not feel connected to life on the prairie.

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