Iowa State graduate works on bringing Ames art to the forefront

Jill O'Brien

When her father’s stroke brought her back to Iowa, Lyndsay Nissen slowly but surely began to discover the arts and music scene that Ames had to offer, and wanted to dive right in.

Nissen graduated from Iowa State with her Master of Fine Arts in integrated studio arts, but started doing visual arts and later performed at the Ames Progressive and collaborated with other local artists like Nate Logsdon. Nissen’s art focuses on the idea of place, more specifically, the state of Iowa.

“The people around me and telling stories. I like investigating cultural things that have happened and either making up myths about it or telling the story that I’ve actually heard,” Nissen said of what inspires her visual art.

One of her favorite pieces is her song “Skunk River” because “people love to sing it with me and that’s been fun to see that response,” Nissen said. “I love seeing people get excited about singing about Iowa.”

But Nissen is starting to delve into being a business owner and bringing Ames art to the forefront. Nissen bought the Doboy feed mill on Reliable Street and plans to turn it into a multipurpose workshop and place where people can take art classes.

“People can come and use tools, take classes, there will be a coffee shop and gallery and performance space,” Nissen said.

The workshops will span from practical things like fixing a bike to art-related things, like welding, and being able to use things that people don’t typically have access to. Nissen hopes that the space will bring Ames art and music into the light and be shared with the community.

“When I came to Ames, I felt like it took me a while to dig in and find the artists and musicians, which was great and fun, but I feel like there are so many amazing people in this town who are doing amazing things, so it would be nice if there was more of a spotlight,” Nissen said.

When asked about her music, Nissen cites a sense of comfort and familiarity that makes music accessible to people.

“We all kind of grew up with that, even if it was just singing in church,” Nissen said. “We’ve all had exposure to music that we haven’t with visual art.”

In terms of the future, Nissen is working on an album with her band, combining music with her visual art in performance pieces, as well as getting the Reliable Street space off the ground.

“Just going to keep making art and making music,” Nissen said. “I’ll be working on Reliable and hanging out there this summer.”