Best of the CRANDIC 2019: Arts & Entertainment

The results are in! Browse the winners of Little Village’s 2019 Best of the CRANDIC competition in the Arts & Entertainment category, representing voters’ favorite artists, groups, venues and organizations in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area.

Best Live Band

Elizabeth Moen

I’ve really enjoyed following Elizabeth Moen and Elly Hofmaier. They have such soulful and amazing voices and have so much promise as great young artists.

— Matt B.

Elizabeth Moen and her band perform at the Yellow Bar in Rome, Italy on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. — courtesy of the Yellow Bar


The Fez

“We love The Fez. Firstly, Steely Dan… what more need be said? Secondly, The Fez just slays it. I’ve seen Steely live. The Fez miiiight be better!”

— Natasha W.

“They make everyone dance when they play the Friday Night Concert Series. It is a tight group of musicians who have been together for nine years, made up of all local talent. They recreated Steely Dan’s hits with grace and vitality. A must-see act.”

— Megan M.

Peanut Ricky

“This group has great vision and the mood they create gives me all the feels.”

— Doug N.

Karen Meat

“Hands down. Not only are they skilled musically, their stage presence is so oddly charming and very entertaining.”

— Kailee O.

Best Musician Overall

Kevin Burt

He is amazing and has a heart of gold.

— Kristie F.D.

Kevin Burt performs during a Joe Biden campaign event at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City. Wednesday, May 1, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village


Lucas Adolphson

“He is talented at multiple instruments, is an excellent songwriter, and has great hair and style.”

— Lydia G.

Elizabeth Moen

“She’s got so much soul in her voice all the while rips on the guitar. Every time I’ve seen her, the room is captivated by her essence. Her funky sound compliments her celestial lyracy.”

— Rachel M.

Trevor Polk

“When he’s not playing keys for Halfloves, he’s composing and playing solo piano shows.”

— Alexa B.

Alizabeth Von Presley

“She is crazy talented, beautiful and creative. She’s also very real on social media and in real life.”

— Mia S.

Dave Zollo

“His bluesy performances touch every bone in my body at any occasion.”

— Jeanne S.

Best Arts Presenter

The Englert Theatre

221 E Washington St, Iowa City —

Is it a venue? Is it an organization? After a century of the arts, it’s broken out of the venerable theater, brings the arts outside to the entire ICR, including The Mill, Blues & BBQ and The Paramount.

— Nick B.

Best and eclectic. An Iowa treasure.

— Paul J.

Being in a historic theater allows you to feel the energy from so many shows past. Simply magic!

— Phoebe M.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones perform at the Englert Theatre on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village


Adam Knight

“He’s bringing Riverside into the 21st century.”

— Rachel H.

Akwi Nji

“Such gorgeous writing and powerful presentation, a strong voice with a heart on fire!”

— Kristie V.

CSPS/Legion Arts

“They have a history of bringing and promoting all kinds of artists. They are a blessing to this community.”

— John W.

“They have a wonderful performance space and bring an eclectic group of musicians and artists to Cedar Rapids.”

— Jan F.

Paramount Theatre

“The Paramount offers an extensive range of programming year-round in a beautiful and historic facility saved after the floods.”

— C.K.

Best Local Theater Company

Riverside Theatre

213 N Gilbert St, Iowa City —

Riverside continues to be one of the only theaters in the country presenting this combination of classic and new work.

— Katie R.

The Riverside Theatre team, November 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Best Theatrical Production of 2019

Men on Boats, Riverside Theatre

Jordan Arnold (left) as Dunn, Jessica Link as Powell in Riverside Theatre’s ‘Men on Boats.’ — Rob Merritt/Riverside Theatre


Henry IV, Part I, Riverside Theatre

“Hotspur killed it (or rather, got killed?).”

— Stacia D.

Best Concert of 2019

Lake Street Dive at Big Grove Brewery

Lake Street Dive had an awesome show at Big Grove. The Englert and Big Grove collaboration made the show huge and the night rocked.

— A.M.


Lizzo at Homecoming 2018

“First woman of color to headline a University of Iowa homecoming concert. So powerful, inclusive and inspiring!”

— Penny P.

Best Festival

Iowa Arts Festival

I always love the festive, summery vibe at this festival. So much unique handmade work from a variety of artists. I can’t leave without buying a new piece of pottery!

— Cadry N.


Grey Area

“Kid-friendly and coolest lineup, plus beautiful scenery, camping, etc. Luke and Cortnie work hard and make improvements that benefit the attendees every year.”

— A.K.

Oktoberfest in the Amana Colonies

“The Amana Colonies always throws the best Oktoberfest, filled with steins, lederhosen and all of the traditional German competitions!”

— Emily E.

Iowa City Jazz Festival

“It’s where I feel the most pride in being an Iowan.”

— Bridget W.

“Hands down the most talented folks to play in Iowa City. This year was filled with great performances, amazing talent and all for free in downtown Iowa City. Brings the jazz community out to party. It’s an opportunity to see the world’s best jazz artists here in Iowa City.”

— M.M.

Mission Creek Festival

“It’s always new, challenging and full of vectors.”

— Andy M.

Witching Hour

“I can’t think of a more Iowa City festival.”

— Michael Z.

Best Place to See Art

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

410 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids —

State of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Sean Ulman, CRMA executive director, reflects on events past and future.

Top three exhibitions of 2019

“American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times” (Feb. 2-May 19)

Yale Joel, courtesy of The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

“Kick Up Your Heels: The Fine Art of Shoes” (May 11-Sept. 1)

Courtesy of CRMA

“If We Ran the Zoo: Animals in Children’s Book Illustration” (Oct. 6, 2018-Jan. 13, 2019)

Courtesy of Zerzanek Collection of the Cedar Rapids Public Library

Can’t-miss exhibition of 2020

Next year, the CRMA celebrates the 125th anniversary of its origins, and an entire year of exceptional exhibitions and educational programs are planned. First up is a major exhibition of French and American Impressionism, the prevailing style at the time of our founding in 1895. Entitled “Across the Atlantic: American Impressionism through the French Lens,” this exhibition of 76 works includes French artists such as Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro, as well as American artists John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam. We will be the only Midwestern venue for this important traveling exhibition, which will be on view in Cedar Rapids Feb. 1-April 26, 2020.



“The building is a work of art, rich with history. They feature local and national artists in their galleries. The galleries are free, making them accessible to all. They have an auditorium and black box theater drawing in national and international musicians. I witnessed my first performance art piece there. One time, I shared a drink at intermission with a bagpipest from Ireland!”

— Rachel M.

Downtown Iowa City

“The mural project has really elevated the downtown area and made art more accessible to the public. I like that they’ve used a mix of local and non-local artists, which has kept the murals from getting too homogenous.”

— Kelly S.

Public Space One

“To me, local artists means community and PS1 is the definition of such a place.”

— Jennifer

“No contest, they have cemented their legacy as the IC community hub for all things art related.”

— Doug N.

Best Local Stand-Up Comedian

Spencer Loucks

Spencer Loucks hosts Yacht Club’s Comedy Mondays open mic. Sept. 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village


Carson Tuttle

“He’s witty, he’s quick on his feet and supports other local comedians to an impressive degree.”

— Emma W.

Best Local Writer

Marilynne Robinson


Marilynne Robinson, favorite of some of our more literate presidents, has helped put the City of Literature on the map.

Housekeeping (1980), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for best first novel.

Gilead (2004), Robinson’s second novel, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2005.

Home (2008), a companion novel to Gilead, was a finalist for the National Book Award (fiction).

Lila (2014), the third book of the Gilead trilogy, won Robinson her second National Book Critics Circle Award.


Lyz Lenz

“She has her finger on the pulse of Iowa politics as a contributor to The Gazette and released her first book this year.”

— Krista K.

Caleb Rainey

“I’ve watched Caleb ‘The Negro Artist’ Rainey grow from solely spoken-word to publishing his own work, and the development in that process shows. Caleb not only channels so much energy into his work, but into connecting with others. No matter your walk of life, Caleb’s literature will touch your soul and challenge you to reflect—true art at its best.”

— Dan S.

Best Local Artist

Sayuri Sasaki Hemann

Sayuri’s artwork has such a fun, playful and colorful aesthetic. The work she did with the mural near the Englert adds a lot to downtown Iowa City.

— Cadry N.


DJ Freesmeier

“He’s a photographer, designer, architect and fisherman whose passion and skill in his craft is matched only in his ability to make others feel loved.”

— Andrew R.

Joe Huermann a.k.a. Nightmare Imagery

“He does amazing intricate ink drawings and screen printing that has been used for album art and shirts for many local bands, as well as very well-known metal bands from across the country.”

— Marissa D.

Jeff McNutt

“Jeff McNutt transfixes me with his color and movement. Plus, he’s just a great human.”

— Natasha W.

Claire Thoele

“Her style is in a class of its own and she is not only super creative, but also technically spot-on with her work.”

— Amanda B.

Best Movie Theater


118 and 404 E College St, Iowa City —

If the film is playing nowhere else, chances are it will be there.

— Paul E.J.

This place is welcoming, creative and cutting-edge! They take care and pride in programming events and weekly movies to get you thinking, talking and out of the box!

— Jamie

Filmmaker Alex Gibney participates in a Q&A moderated by FilmScene’s interim executive director Andrew Sherburne following a screening of Gibney’s new documentary ‘Citizen K’ at FilmScene–The Chauncey. Sunday, Nov. 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Best Community (i.e. non-professional) Music or Theatre Group

Theatre Cedar Rapids

102 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids —

Mina (McKayla Sturtz) encounters the Monster (Jacob Kostiv) in Theatre Cedar Rapids’ production of ‘Dracula.’ — Studio Reserved/TCR


Family Folk Machine

“Family Folk Machine is an intergenerational non-auditioned folk choir. Kids learn to play instruments, seniors sing their hearts out and the relevant voice of songs makes every concert a truly meaningful experience.”

— Katie R.

Iowa City Community Theatre

“They draw lots of people in from IC and neighboring communities and build a very real sense of community in the theatre.”

— K.R.

SPT Theatre

“Cracking up the Corridor with their clever writing and song choices for years!”

— Kristie V.

I.C. Kings

“The I.C. Kings are such a unique drag king troupe. There is such a high level of theatricality in each and every show they put on. I’ve seen drag kings all over the country, and there is something very unique about this troupe. They come up with great themes, have entertaining guest performers and create such a safe space for all individuals. They’re amazing!”

— Sara T.

Oakdale Community Choir

“Locals and incarcerated men engage in singing and transformation (within themselves and the criminal justice system) under the direction of Dr. Mary Cohen.”

— Maria K.

“During the past choir season the choir was featured in a short documentary aired on Iowa Public Television — it is now been nominated for a regional Emmy award. The choir participated in a learning exchange with the Soweto Gospel Choir, welcomed Maggie Wheeler (Janice from Friends), and sang at the state capitol.”

— Bridget T.

Best Place to Dance

Studio 13

13 S Linn St, Iowa City —

Always good music. Always good drinks. People always dancing.

— Amanda B.

The atmosphere is always really fun and the music never stops!

— Anthony S.

Studio 13, 13 S Linn St, during Iowa City Pride Week 2019. — Nick Rohlman



“Whether it’s live music upstairs or the dance party downstairs—it’s always an easy place to let loose!”

— Kyle H.

Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon

“There are few places where you can line dance, swing dance or salsa to a live band. This is a great place to learn and dance on a regular basis.”

— C.K.

Best Local Record Studio/Label

Flat Black Studios (Long Play Records)

5012 540th St SE, Lone Tree —

Luke Tweedy at Flat Black Studios, Feb. 2, 2018. — Jason Smith/Little Village


Curious Music

“Curious Music in Coralville had been quietly putting out world- renown avant garde artists for decades.”

— Katie R.

See who else won!

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