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.
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.