Location still to be decided for public art project

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By Molly Moser

Guttenberg was one of 15 towns chosen to participate in an Our Town grant from the National Endowment of the Arts awarded to Northeast Iowa RC&D, leading to the recent discussion of where to place a large sculpture within Guttenberg’s city parks. 

As reported in the Oct. 26, 2016, issue of The Press, Jared Nielsen of RC&D gave a presentation of the project on Oct. 13 and community members were invited to submit their comments on the proposed idea of fish sculptures to be placed on light poles in Guttenberg’s historic downtown. During their July 3 meeting council members discussed the updated project, which has evolved since the project’s beginnings into a large, singular sculpture.

The art installation for the City of Guttenberg is being led by Northeast Iowa RC&D project coordinator Mallory Marlatt. All of the activities, planning, and funds will go through Northeast Iowa RC&D throughout the 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 Wisconsin in 2016. She’s the co-founder and co-owner of 20-Ton Studio, a collaborative art space located in Milwaukee, Wis., 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.”

Guttenberg will be expected to raise $15,000 through grant funds or donations, for the fabrication, installation, site amenities, and artist fees associated with the sculpture project - however, no funds are being requested from the City of Guttenberg. Of the necessary dollars, $5,000 is coming from the Byways of Iowa Foundation (a nonprofit). This $5,000 is being raised through promotions with Casey's General Stores and from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Another $1,000 was granted from the Clayton County Foundation for the Future; $2,500 has been offered as a challenge grant from Umbrella Arts, and an additional $2,920 has been donated privately from Guttenberg residents and business owners.

"We have a $2,500 request in to UMGC and also have some other private donors that are interested in contributing," said Marlatt. 

Just $3,580 is needed to complete the project, and donations can be directed to: Byways of Iowa Foundation, c/o Northeast Iowa RC&D, PO Box 916, Postville, Iowa 52162.

Council members first approved the project for Guttenberg in December of 2015. During a June meeting of the Guttenberg Park Board, members of the Guttenberg Art Advisory Committee presented several potential locations for installation in an open green space on River Park Drive. The park board recommended one location to the city council during their July meeting, but after hearing concerns from the community, the discussion was tabled until the August meeting. 

“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.”

Organizers anticipate the completion of the project in late 2017.

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