Artistic Expressions on Stage and Canvas

How far must you travel to find world-class musicians and up-and-coming artists? Fortunately for Siouxlanders, the answer is not far. A short trip to our downtown brings you to Vangarde Arts, where you can find both in one location. Led by music and art enthusiast Brent Stockton, Vangarde Arts showcases both visual and performing artists. 

This local non-profit was formed in 2012 by a group of Siouxland art and music aficionados who share a vision to bring a unique cultural arts center combining a stage for professional performing arts with an art gallery housed in a singular space. From that shared vision, Vangarde Arts were formed. Here, you can find Grammy Award-winning musicians and groups from around the world performing on stage. 

While the same can be said of Sioux City’s opulent Orpheum Theatre, there are differences between the two venues. First, there is the size and vibe of the rooms. Audiences will likely never be closer to the performers than at Vangarde Arts, where the stage is set in the intimate atmosphere housing an audience of under one hundred. Another difference is something that Vangarde Arts prides itself in being able to do. Thanks to their generous donors and dedicated volunteers, Vangarde Arts can make their world-class experiences very affordable to their audience. Most of the acclaimed artist’s performances have ticket prices from $15 to $20. Many people attending the live acts drop extra money in the tip jar after their experience, saying it was worth more than the ticket price. 

During a typical month, Vangarde Arts likes to host 4-6 different acts, whether it is a comedian or live music, including local bands, soloists, or world-renowned performers. Audiences will hear all genres of music, including classic rock, R&B, jazz, reggae, and everything in between. The only significant criteria for the musical performers is that Vangarde Arts prefers having bands play only original music. Occasionally a group will perform cover music, but Vangarde Arts likes to promote original ideas and original music, not something you can hear in other venues. 

Stockton says he often receives requests from musicians who regularly perform for several hundred fans asking to perform at Vangarde Arts due to the ambiance of playing in such a personal setting. The musicians also comment on the high sound quality in the room. Thanks to a Missouri River Historical Development (MRHD) Grant, Stockton says they will be upgrading their audio and visual recording equipment, including installing a multi-camera system. This will allow artists to record their shows on high-quality audio and video equipment for promotional purposes. Vangarde Arts also recently received a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The funds are designed to help the arts impacted by Covid.

Another thing making Vangarde Arts unique is their ongoing combination of two creative expressions, performing arts and visual arts, together in one space. Every Thursday night, Vangarde Arts host a free Open Mic Night where anyone, at any skill level and every age, is welcome to perform. Many people have been exposed to creative expressions at Vangarde Arts through music, comedy, dance, and theater, as well as visual arts created by local artists. 

Vangarde Arts host art shows for various visual artists, whether they are well-recognized in the Siouxland area, like Paul Chelstad, Amy Thompson, and Jodi Whitlock, or new to the local art scene like Glenda Drennen and Jessica Hammond. After Glenda’s recent success at Vangarde Arts, she was invited to showcase her work at the EastBank Art Gallery & Studio in Sioux Falls. Vangarde Arts was also a catalyst to help Jessica Hammond become recognized in Siouxland as her murals began becoming commissioned around town.

As you enter the space at 416 Pierce Street, you find yourself surrounded by visual arts, often showcasing local artist’s works. The works of local artist Thomas Kleber were recently on display for his first independent show. Vangarde Arts serves hors d‘oeuvres, wine, and beverages for Art Show Openings, where anyone, including the artist’s friends and relatives, can view the masterpieces on display during these free events. The artists are pleased and sometimes surprised, that 300-400 people see their works throughout their Show. 

Many people seeing the artwork are drawn to Vangarde Arts for the musical talent or Open Mic Nights. Some have never been in an art gallery or have any art background, yet they find themselves having conversations about the art. They express emotions they are experiencing from the art and share their thoughts on the pieces. Some will even go home with a piece they fall in love with and purchase from the art show. 

During a musical performance, you may even see an artist creating an original work of art as an expression of the emotions they experience from the music. Recently, two artists worked on separate canvases while a band played, then switched and worked on the other artists’ canvas, then back and forth while the music continued. The diptych, or piece of art created in two parts, was then auctioned off. The proceeds benefit Vangarde Arts, which as a non-profit organization depends completely on ticket sales, private donations, grants, and “VAP” or Vangarde Arts Partners, for funding. Anyone can become a VAP for $100 or $250 per year, and each level comes with membership perks. There are one or two exclusive events for VAP members each year, where the members can meet the musicians.

During Open Mic Night every Thursday, there is no cover charge, and you can hear a variety of music from musicians as young as ten to performers who were around to hear Sinatra or Elvis perform live during their youth. A few local bands, including Ultra Violet Fever and Central Time, were formed at Open Mic Night, where they met. Anyone wanting to share their talent on stage in front of a friendly, supportive audience can stop down at Vangarde Arts for Open Mic Night. 

Many people attend Vangarde Arts regularly to experience various expressions of artistic talent. If you have never been to a performance at Vangarde Arts, you are missing out. Check out their calendar and find out when the next live event is taking place or stop down on a Thursday evening around 7 p.m. Upcoming Events can be found on their website at or their Vangarde Arts Facebook page. Anyone looking to showcase their artistic or musical talents or wanting to become a VAP can contact Brent Stockton at (712) 251-6432. 

Michelle Lessmann, Fully Licensed Professional in Bill Erck and Keith Bales Office of Thrivent.

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