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Get Artsy in Ames
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Get Artsy in Ames

While Ames is well-known as the home of Iowa State University, it is also known for its thriving arts and culture scene. It offers theater performances, local art galleries and international visiting artists. If you have an interest in musicals, pottery, hand-crafted furniture, or simply like to craft in your spare time, keep reading to find out how you can do all that and more in Ames!

The Octagon Center for the Arts is your one-stop-shop for art classes and exhibits in Ames. This non-profit community art organization, located in downtown Ames, features exhibits from local and visiting artists alike. Past exhibits have featured artwork such as copper drawings, paintings, woodworking, pottery and more. If you’re interested in creating your own masterpieces, check out the variety of adult, young adult and children’s art classes offered. These classes have a wide variety of mediums, skill levels and times, so you’re sure to find something that works for you. Already made items are also available for purchase at the Octagon’s Gallery Shop.

The Iowa State Center is a great place to go to take in a variety of performing arts. The Performing Arts Series gives you the opportunity to attend local, national and international productions, right from Ames. Acts including the Vienna Boys Choir, Motown the Musical, The Wizard of Oz and the Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra all have or are scheduled to perform at the Iowa State Center. Looking for kid-friendly performances? Check out the Youth Matinee Series! These shows are specially designed for the little ones, with early show times and age-appropriate content.

The Iowa State University Memorial Union might not be the first place you think of when you’re looking for local cultural events, but don’t be fooled! They offer a huge variety of events, performances and exhibits suited to ISU students and the general public alike. Drop by the Gallery and the Pioneer Room to check out rotating exhibits featuring work from both regional artists and Iowa State students. Get crafty with classes and walk-in crafts at The Workspace, located in the basement of the Memorial Union. Try things like painting pottery, screen printing, making macramé necklaces and more! They offer open studio times too, so you can work on whatever interests you. The Memorial Union is also home to The Maintenance Shop, Ames’ oldest continuously operating nightclub. This student-ran music venue, nicknamed the M-Shop, features local, national and international acts. Recent acts they’ve hosted include The Civil Wars, Thompson Square, Andy Grammer and The Lumineers. Popular student improv group, Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival, also calls the M-Shop home. Ticket are affordable, and significant discounts are offered to ISU students.

The Ames Community Theater, also known as ACTORS, has been providing live theater to central Iowa for over 60 years. Their productions give viewers a way to see local talent and a variety of performances. Each season includes comedies, dramas and one or two musicals. Previous performances have been designed for children, adults and families, so there is something everyone can enjoy. Would you rather be up on stage than in the audience? Anyone can audition for an ACTORS show! If you’re not a performer at heart, there are also several volunteer positions open for production crew members, costume designers, makeup artists and many more.

Swing by downtown and check out Design on Main, a studio and gallery designed to connect the Iowa State University College of Design and the Ames community. This building houses graduate studios, as well as displays open to the public. Previous displays have included fiber sculptures, traditional wooden furniture, paintings and multimedia work. Are you someone who enjoys meeting the artist and asking them about their work? You’re in luck! Design on Main host artists’ receptions frequently, and they are open to the public. Meet the graduate students and visiting artists who display their gorgeous artwork in this gallery.

We hope this list has given you some creative places to explore. Still looking for more? Visit for a full list of things to EAT, DO, STAY and SHOP!

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
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