Pikes Peak featured in byway art project

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An original painting depicting a birds eye view of Pikes Peak State Park was unveiled at McGregor City Hall last week. It was created by well-known Decorah artist Mary Ann Gloe as part of an art project to capture and promote the beauty of the parks and natural areas in Iowa scenic byway corridors. Pictured with the painting are (left to right) McGregor councilman Charlie Carroll, mayor Lyle Troester, city administrator Lynette Sander, Jared Nielsen with Northeast Iowa RC&D, McGregor deputy city clerk Duane Boelman and McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ashley Kishman. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

An original painting depicting a birds eye view of Pikes Peak State Park was unveiled at McGregor City Hall last week. It was created by well-known Decorah artist Mary Ann Gloe as part of a promotional project called “Capturing the Beauty of Iowa’s Natural Areas Through Art.” 

The Pikes Peak painting is one of seven new pieces of art that were commissioned by Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development, local scenic byway boards and other local sponsors, including the city of McGregor, as a way to capture and promote the beauty of the parks and natural areas in Iowa scenic byway corridors. Marquette and McGregor are located along the River Bluffs Scenic Byway, with Pikes Peak being one of visitors’ favorite stops.

“Something we were looking to do is very similar to what the National Park System does in promoting their natural areas,” shared Jared Nielsen, senior marketing and design specialist with Northeast Iowa RC&D. “They would have an artist do an original painting and then they would put them on balsam-type wood postcards for souvenirs and then also on posters.” 

“We know byway visitors are looking for local souvenirs,” he added. “The unique posters and postcards that Amanda Streeper from our office designed will help byway and other travelers remember the view and hopefully inspire their friends to visit.” 

In addition to Pikes Peak, other paintings capture the beauty of Lansing from the Driftless Area Education Center, Trout Run stream at the Decorah Fish Hatchery, Echo Valley State Park near West Union, Silver Lake in Delhi and two views of the Backbone Trail at Backbone State Park. 

Gloe traveled to each of these iconic northeast Iowa sites for inspiration.

“We just let her do her thing, and this is the result of Pikes Peak,” said Nielsen of the painting, which features a side view of Pikes Peak’s main overlook of the Mississippi River in the height of autumn.

“The first time she was there,” noted Nielsen, “she was like, ‘This is great, but I kind of want to get an angle no one’s seen before.’ So we sent Paul Burland from our office out there, and he has a drone license, so he played around a bit and snapped some photos, and she was inspired to go forth with this.”

Several area visitor and welcome centers, including the Osborne Nature Center in Elkader, are already selling the postcards and posters. Other local sites and businesses are welcome to do the same, and can reach out to Nielsen at (563) 864-7112 or jared@northeastiowarcd.org for more information.

“We’re going to have these beautiful postcards throughout the state, and hopefully throughout the nation, and people are going to want to come to McGregor,” said Duane Boelman, McGregor’s deputy city clerk.

Nielsen said one-third of the proceeds from the sale of merchandise will go back to the artist, while one-third will go to the vendor who sells the items The final third will be used by the scenic byway boards to complete future projects like this.

Along with Northeast Iowa RC&D, and local byways and sponsors, the overall project was made possible through support from a grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and Iowa Arts Council.

For now, Gloe’s original painting of Pikes Peak State Park will remain on display at McGregor City Hall.

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