Through a series of local partnerships and the talents of local artist Mary Ann Gloe, six of Northeast Iowa’s state parks and natural areas are being recognized in the latest exhibition of the ‘Art at the Library’ series featured at the State Library of Iowa. The unveiling of Ms. Gloe’s paintings at the State Capitol Law Library, a project commissioned by Northeast Iowa RC&D, coincides with the Iowa State Parks Centennial Celebration. This celebration, a partnership between the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Tourism Office, aims to enhance appreciation for these Iowa treasures, as well as encourage increased visitation and stewardship of Iowa’s State Parks.
Although the exhibit was previously open to the public during the month of February, the closure of the State Capitol has moved the exhibit to a virtual platform on the Iowa Art Council’s Facebook page. Rod Marlatt, Director of Fayette County Conservation and manager of the Echo Valley State Park stated, “It’s great to still be able to draw attention to this project through a virtual exhibit. Regardless of whether or not you can see it in person, the State Park postcard and art project provides a unique and exciting opportunity to showcase the allure of our State Parks along the Scenic Byways of Northeast Iowa.”
Ms. Gloe’s paintings are part of a series of landscape paintings developed after inspiring visits to six Northeast Iowa locations. They include Iowa’s first state park – Backbone State Park, which was the subject of two paintings sponsored by Friest Realty. The Backbone State Park paintings feature a sunny woodland scene along the “Backbone Trail” and the view of a majestic valley through one the park’s many unique geologic features. With assistance from the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Gloe was also commissioned to paint Trout Run stream below the falls at the State of Iowa Decorah Fish Hatchery, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Trout Run is the most universally accessible trout stream in the Midwest and the state lands are known world-wide for providing views of the Decorah Eagle’s Nest. The City of McGregor sponsored a rare aerial view, captured via drone, of the 500-foot Mississippi River bluff and main overlooks at Pikes Peak State Park. Allamakee County Conservation partnered on a painting of the view of the Upper Mississippi River from the new Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center, which provides a unique glimpse of the interface between the Great River Road, Lansing, Iowa, the railroad, and the public lands found along the Mississippi River. The City of Delhi facilitated another painting featuring the serenity found on Silver Lake near Delhi, Iowa. The seventh painting in the collection was supported by Fayette County Economic Development and Tourism and captures the beauty of a dramatic limestone bluff and trout stream at Echo Valley State Park.
During the project, Ms. Gloe visited each of the locations over the course of a year to find spots of inspiration to share with the public and encourage appreciation of these Iowa treasures. Ms. Gloe stated, “I was quite content to produce artworks inspired by my surroundings in the Decorah area, painting what was near and dear to me. Then Lora Friest of Northeast Iowa RC&D urged me out of my comfort zone, commissioning me with a grant from the Iowa Arts Council to paint images of State Parks along the Scenic Byways in Northeast Iowa. Surprisingly, I loved each location! Each was unique and beautiful in its own way. I found myself caught up in the magic of the raw, wild beauty of these places.” In addition to the paintings, Northeast Iowa RC&D graphic designer Amanda Streeper, used Ms. Gloe’s images to create artistic, vintage-style posters and wooden postcards to identify and recognize these areas and the byways on which they were located. Lora Friest, Northeast Iowa RC&D’s Executive Director Emeritus recalled, “In my own travels through National Forests and Parks, I noticed these incredible keepsakes depicting stylized imagery of each area. These pieces reminded me so much of Ms. Gloe’s work, and because of my own love for Northeast Iowa’s natural areas, I thought we should give this a try.” The posters and postcards are available for purchase at local retail locations along the byways and online at northeastiowarcd.org. The proceeds help support work in these natural areas and along Iowa’s Scenic Byways.