Umbrella Arts announces theme of 2018 sculpture contest

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Area artist Josh Gomez has already started working on his entry for the Umbrella Arts summer sculpture contest. When complete, this mixed-media piece which incorporates Mississippi River driftwood, stones, and shells, will be on display at Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

A much-anticipated project that started in 2016 will culminate this summer with the installation of a new sculpture on the 500 block of South River Park Drive. A group of Guttenberg residents attended meetings, helped with fundraising, and held discussion with artists and community members to bring this new piece of public artwork to the historic downtown riverfront. Guttenberg is one of 15 recipients of the Our Town grant from the National Endowment of the Arts awarded to Northeast Iowa RC&D, which is administering the project across all 15 communities.

In honor of artist Victoria Reed’s 12-foot, stainless steel sculpture, Umbrella Arts has named fish the theme of their 2018 annual summer sculpture contest. Member Juanita Loven is leading the project. 

“As usual, businesses and members of the community are encouraged to create some sort of fish-related art piece to fit this theme,” said Loven. “Entries might be created out of metal, wood, plastic, cardboard, paper, golf balls, glass, ceramics, wire, bottle caps, horseshoes or any other solid material. They can stand alone, be attached to something else, hang from a tree, or any other option – but they need to be weatherproof.” 

Participants are invited to submit their name, sculpture location and a photo of their finished entry to  by June 29. Judges will score each entry based on skill and technique and consistency; attractiveness (symmetry, color, composition, presentation and visual impact); fulfilled intent (whether the entry looks like a fish, speaks for itself, is recognizable and stands out), and uniqueness or creativity (based characteristics that set it apart from other entries, such as incorporated objects). 

Photos and locations of the sculptures will be visible online courtesy of Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center after the submission deadline. Bent Willow Studio and Gallery is expected to hold a fish-themed ‘Paint it Forward’ fundraiser event in partnership with the sculpture contest. 

The inaugural Umbrella Arts sculpture contest was held in 2014 and encouraged participants to use recycled objects to create a bicycle sculpture in time for the arrival of RAGBRAI XLII, which ended in Guttenberg that year. Subsequent contests have included the themes of scenic seating, painted fire hydrants, and cows in celebration of Ingleside Park – some of which have resulted in permanent additions to the artistic culture of the community. 

Winners of the fifth annual Umbrella Arts summer sculpture contest will be announced at the River of Music concert on Friday, Aug. 10. Cash prizes will also be awarded at that time. Portable sculptures may be displayed throughout the weekend.

The dedication of Reed’s sculpture is also tentatively scheduled for that weekend as part of Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce’s Celebrate the River event. “Victoria has completed fabrication of the piece and is graciously storing it for us pending our archaeological survey,” said Mallory Hansen, who is coordinating the grant project on behalf of Northeast Iowa RC&D. “Chris Schoen is waiting for the deep frost to leave the group before beginning testing, but he has already begun compiling background information, so it shouldn’t take too long once he is able to start testing.” 

The large walleye sculpture will be installed pending the results of the archaeological survey. “In the mean time, residents, businesses and organizations are encouraged to start creating their own fish sculptures to welcome the 12-foot walleye!” said Loven.

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