Traveling exhibition displays artwork from Iowa State community

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park (alla prima) by Nancy Thompson is part of the traveling art exhibition “20 Artists, 20 Parks.”

Logan Metzger

Artwork by Iowa State faculty, graduate students and extension specialists is being featured in a traveling art exhibition.

The art exhibition, “20 Artists, 20 Parks,” features the work of faculty, graduate students and extension specialists from the Colleges of Design, Agriculture and Life Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences, is commemorating the centennial of Iowa’s state parks. It showcases artwork 20 Iowa artists made last summer in 20 state parks — all to celebrate the state parks centennial in 2020.

The show is organized by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs; the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Iowa State University.

“The artwork is as varied as the parks themselves, from the Maquoketa Caves to Stephens State Forest to Gull Point on Lake Okoboji,” said the Iowa Arts Council’s Veronica O’Hern, who helped curate the show, in a press release. “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 worked with DNR park rangers to learn about the parks’ ecosystems. According to the College of Design website, the artists visited often to take notes, draw sketches and gather ideas.

The exhibition is traveling in order to share the artwork statewide, as part of the DNR’s yearlong celebration of the parks centennial. According to the College of Design’s website, outdoor activities are supposed to ramp up this spring and summer at the 72 state parks and forests to highlight the importance of recreation, historic preservation, art, culture and natural resources.

“Iowans understand how precious our relationship is with the natural environment,” said Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the Iowa State College of Design, in a press release. “We’re delighted to work with the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Cultural Affairs to invite the public to enjoy and interact with our state parks in new ways.”

The 20 parks that are included in 20 Artists, 20 Parks are featured on the project website and on the Iowa Culture mobile app, a free tool to discover arts, history and cultural destinations across Iowa. More information about how to visit the parks is on the app, which the public can download for free from Google Play and the App Store. Visitors can also find state park information at

The exhibition started on March 16 in the Polk County Heritage Gallery in Des Moines. A video tour of the exhibition can be found here.

The next stop for the exhibition is the Dubuque Museum of Art from May 30 to Sept. 20. The reception is June 5.

Then the exhibition stops at the Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum from Sept. 30 to Jan. 8, 2021. The reception is scheduled for sometime in October.

The final stop for the exhibition is at the Sioux City Art Center from Jan. 30, 2021, to May 9, 2021. The reception is scheduled for Jan. 30, 2021.