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Small communities, local artists star in Southwest Iowa Art Tour

Small communities, local artists star in Southwest Iowa Art Tour

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Dream a little, achieve a lot.

Muralist Zack Jones knows the power of those six words. He hopes the public discovers it, too, with a visit to Malvern on Saturday, Sept. 19, for the Southwest Iowa Art Tour.

The Mills County community has three of nine stops on the seventh annual tour, including Jones’ Project Art Church just off Main Street. But there’s a lot more to experience than his studio gallery, Jones said.

Malvern — designated an Iowa Great Places in 2016 — has public art, shopping, restaurants, even a wine bar to fill a half-day. Throw in the Wabash Trace Nature Trail and three popular Airbnb rentals, and you’ve got the makings of a weekend getaway.

Project Art Church

Project Art Church is a gallery-studio for artist Zack Jones. Visitors to Malvern are welcome to pop in and watch Jones at work. The Art Church is a stop on the seventh annual Southwest Iowa Art Tour, Sept. 19. 

“The curb appeal is off the charts,” Malvern Bank President Jay Burdic said of an economic revival centered on fine arts, food, recreation and historic preservation.

His conservative estimate is that Malvern has seen $8 million to $10 million in capital investments in the past seven years.

“That just doesn’t happen in a town of 1,200,” he said.

The Malvern Area Betterment Association, with support from city and business leaders, has aggressively pursued grant money to help the town grow and thrive.

Downtown buildings were renovated and repainted in 2015, thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Malvern Bank loaned the city another $200,000 in the form of a bond, and local businesses kicked in roughly $200,000 for $1 million in facade and other improvements.

“That grant was the biggest thing to ever happen to Malvern,” Burdic said.

In 2016, the community received an Iowa Great Places grant through the Department of Cultural Affairs that the bank matched for streetscaping and public art. A second award in 2018 continued beautification efforts.

Main Street, Burdic said, is the driver of the bike-friendly town’s continuing renaissance.

In addition to the historic buildings, six tree sculptures by metal artist Orlo “Woody” Jones and a building wall mural of the Wabash Trace by Zack Jones give the downtown unique character.

It all will be on display during the Southwest Iowa Art Tour that runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Other designated stops are in Council Bluffs, Glenwood, Macedonia, Avoca, Harlan and Red Oak.

Works by 50 artists will be showcased — some in outdoor settings because of COVID-19 concerns, according to the tour’s coordinator, Rebecca Castle. The artists will offer paintings, sculpture, fabric art, photography, wood carving, pottery, jewelry, mixed media and more.

Hosts in Red Oak, Harlan and Avoca will have outdoor artist booths and activities. Masks are recommended, and 6 feet of social distance is encouraged at all stops.

While the tour is designed for day-trippers, it could be tough hitting all the communities, Castle said. She recommends visiting swiarttour.com, browsing the gathering places and planning your route before hitting the road.

Artist Zack Jones

Artist Zack Jones of Malvern, Iowa, specializes in murals and other large installations. His studio gallery, Project Art Church, is a work in progress. 

Tour-goers who arrive hungry in Malvern can enjoy patio dining, bakery items, ice cream — even international wines. The Wine Room and Pretty Little Things, a mother-daughter venture that opened in August 2019, specializes in wine tastings amid works by Southwest Iowa artists and artisans.

“It’s a nice little escape,” Zack Jones said. “I can’t believe what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Burdic agreed: “The town looks good. Malvern’s got a lot of really cool stuff going on.”

SOUTHWEST IOWA ART TOUR

What: Seventh annual celebration connecting communities through painting, sculpture, fabric art, photography, wood carving, pottery, jewelry and mixed media.

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Council Bluffs, Glenwood, Malvern, Macedonia, Avoca, Harlan and Red Oak

Admission: Free

Information, including a map: swiarttour.com

Fifty artists will be showcased on the Southwest Iowa Art Tour on Saturday. Here’s where to find them.

Buck Christensen

Council Bluffs photographer Buck Christensen specializes in landscapes. This scene of the Loess Hills will be part of his show and sale Saturday at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center in Council Bluffs in conjunction with the Southwest Iowa Art Tour.  

Council Bluffs

Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center, 1001 S. 6th St. Featured artists: Ann Brugenhemke, Liz Bartels, Buck Christensen, Chloe Bennett, Clay Cunningham, Dan Klima, Joyce Branigan, Deb Koesters, Julie Stueve, Susan Woodford, Nancy Lepo, Kathy Fiscus, Nia Karmann, Kent Hertz, D.C. Lutz.

Glenwood

Mary Sneed’s Fine Art & Custom Framing, 507 Locust St. Featured artist: Mary Sneed.

Ceramics by Cece Lock

Pottery by Cece Lock will be featured in the outdoor show Saturday at Historic Fountain Square in downtown Red Oak, a stop on the Southwest Iowa Art Tour. 

Red Oak

Historic Fountain Square, downtown. Featured artists: Trisha Earley, Carroll Danbom, Cece Lock, Ann Iverson, Nylea Hughes, Phil Lamb, Reagan Juel. Hosts: Phil and Traci Lamb, Five One 8 gallery.

Malvern

Project Art Church, 2001 E. 4th St. Featured artists: Tom Harnack, Marla Hart, Don Baier, Zack Jones.

Fine Arts on 5th Gallery, 104 5th St. Featured artists: Marge Boska and Emily McQueen.

Colorado Studio, 2020 E. 5th St. Featured artists: Anna Stoysich, Jorge Chavez Colorado.

Macedonia

The Painted Camel Gallery, 320 Main St. Featured artists: 30 are represented in the gallery. Among them: Bud Noble, Paul Koch, Duane Adams, Marilyn Hackett, Sheryl Tschupp.

Harlan

Harlan Courthouse Square, 7th and Durant Streets. Featured artists: Alexa Hoffman, BJ Sievers, Leasa Brouillard, Kim Piro, Katie DuVal Mihelic, Kari Lewis.

Avoca

Avoca Main Street, Crocker and Elm Streets. Featured artists: Haley McAndrews, Robert Dewaele, LuAnn Barrett, Sandra Clemons.

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Chris is a magazine and special sections editor for The World-Herald. She writes on lifestyle topics and trends, including interior design, travel and fashion. Follow her on Instagram @chrischristen and Twitter @cchristenOWH. Phone: 402-444-1094.

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