Iowa’s park system began 100 years ago when Backbone State Park was dedicated on May 28, 1920, and has grown to encompass 72 parks and forests across the state. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Iowa state parks in 2020, 20 faculty and graduate student artists from three of Iowa State University’s colleges—Design, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Liberal Arts and Sciences—were matched with 20 state parks to create artwork during summer residencies from April through August 2019.
20 Artists, 20 Parks is an exhibition of these artworks that utilizes the arts to facilitate a greater understanding and appreciation for Iowa’s natural landscape. State parks selected for the project represent diverse ecological, geological and cultural experiences that make Iowa unique. From paintings to quilts to sound installations, the artworks included in 20 Artists, 20 Parks are as distinct as the parks themselves. The artworks capture the sights and sounds of Iowa's natural landscape illuminating the relations hip between art and nature.
"The artwork is as varied as the parks themselves, from the Maquoketa Caves to Stephens State Forestto Gull Point on Lake Okoboji,” said the Iowa Arts Council’s Veronica O’Hern, who helped curate the show. “Together the paintings, sculptures, textiles, photos, videos and other art forms capture the sights and sounds of these unique pockets of the Iowa landscape.”
During their residencies last summer, the Iowa State artists–including students and faculty members from the Colleges of Design, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Liberal Arts and Sciences–worked closely with DNR park rangers to learn about the parks’ ecosystems. The artists visited often to take notes, draw sketches and gather ideas. They created their artwork on-site or in their studios and will return to their assigned parks in summer 2020 to lead public demonstrations.
Featured Parks & Artists
Lake of Three Fires State Park, Bedford-Amy Harris
Walnut Woods State Park, West Des Moines-Deborah Pappenheimer
Viking Lake State Park, Stanton-Olivia Valentine
Rock Creek State Park, Kellogg-Anna Segner
Stephens State Forest, Chariton-Clark Colby
Lake Macbride State Park, Solon-Firat Erdim
Wildcat Den State Park, Muscatine-Kristen Greteman
Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, Keosauqua-Nancy Thompson
Lake Darling State Park, Mt. Pleasant-Rob Wallace
Brushy Creek State Park, Lehigh-Austin Stewart and Omar De Kok-Mercado
Stone State Park, Sioux City-Carol Faber
Pilot Knob State Park, Forest City-Christopher Yanulis
Pine Lake State Park, Eldora-Jennifer Drinkwater
Gull Point State Park, Okoboji-Paula Streeter
Pikes Peak State Park, McGregor-Barbara Walton
Maquoketa Caves State Park, Maquoketa-Brent Holland Palisades-Kepler
State Park, Mt. Vernon-Celinda Stamy
Mines of Spain State Park, Dubuque-Joe Muench
Backbone State Park, Dundee-Kimberly Moss
Yellow River State Forest, Harpers Ferry-Nathan Dean Edwards
Visit the Parks
The 20 state parks are included as a Featured Tour on the Iowa Culture mobile app, a free and interactive tool to discover arts, history and cultural destinations across Iowa. More information about how to visit the parks is on the app. Download the free mobile app from Apple or Google Play stores or launch the desktop version.
20 Artists, 20 Parks is a partnership between the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and Iowa State University College of Design. The program is funded by the Iowa Arts Council.