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"Our Town" Grant Brings Art to Northeast Iowa Byways
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"Our Town" Grant Brings Art to Northeast Iowa Byways

Towns along scenic byways in Clayton, Jones, Jackson, Allamakee, Fayette, and Delaware Counties have been chosen to participate in an "Our Town" grant from the National Endowment of the Arts awarded to Northeast Iowa RC&D. The "Our Town" grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. Mallory Marlatt, Project Coordinator for Northeast Iowa RC&D, will be leading the statewide project and has been working with a committee in Guttenberg on their project.

The art concept for the City of Guttenberg was developed through a creative and engaging process involving stakeholders within Guttenberg, including city officials, community members, scenic byway board members, etc. This planning process encouraged creative place-making by featuring the distinct character and quality of the community,” said Marlatt. “The Guttenberg Art Advisory Committee (a group made up of interested stakeholders in the community, including members of Umbrella Arts) has selected Victoria Reed as their artist after a public call was put out.”

Reed earned her BFA from the University of Northern Iowa in 2010 and her MFA from the University of Wisconson in 2016. She’s the co-founder and co-owner of 20-Ton Studio, a collaborative art space located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and she currently works as a metallurgical lab technician at Johnson Brass and Machine, a Wisconsin foundry that specializes in copper alloys, centrifugal castings, and machining.

Northeastern Iowa is breathtaking; trout streams and lime stone bluffs, swooping valleys and fields exactly as Grant wood painted them, and the long and lovely roads that flow through them all. I spent time, real solid time on the islands in the Mississippi when I was young, and time on the Mississippi is different from other sensations of it. It is a slower, hazier, wilder and more languid element there than elsewhere. You stream your fingers through the dusky water, roll your pant legs up and find your inner Mark Twain, and it’s so easy,” wrote the artist in her letter of application. 

Her proposed sculpture is a stainless steel walleye that will be 13-16 feet long, depending on its final location. “Like many things that are often overlooked, the walleye has a subtle beauty, and in that, a metaphor particular to this place. In its scales is a pattern it inherited, and a sheen; it is its nature only, a thought inseparable from the river itself. This is why I have designed the proposed piece to carry a map of Guttenberg hidden in its patterning, because the people, the land, and the river define each other here, and in that there is a profound beauty, subtle and natural.

The public art piece developed in the City of Guttenberg will improve the public space in which it is located (the specific location is yet to be determined) and strategically reflect or shape the physical and social character of Guttenberg,” said Marlatt. “Together, the 15 art pieces throughout Iowa will create a body of art that epitomizes the culture and character of 15 small Iowa communities along Iowa’s scenic byways.”

The sculpture in Guttenberg will be placed along the river in one of the city's many parks. Organizers anticipate the completion of the project in late 2017. 

Photo by the author

More about art, river, byway, iowa, sculpture, reed, walleye
  1. Imagine Northeast Iowa Support
    Imagine Northeast Iowa Support
    What wonderful news! Thanks for the post!
  2. RovingPatrick
    This is a great development, but a bit disappointing that the work of art chosen was so literal -- a walleye. There are more sophisticated ways of representing place than a simple reiteration of what is already known. The potency of art comes in expanding perspective, not calcifying it.

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