MUSCATINE, Iowa–As spring arrives, the Muscatine County Arts Council encourages people to get out and about and celebrate the arts with both their annual Art Array exhibit and Wandering Words. Both contests celebrate the work of Muscatine area artists in creative and public ways.
Since its inaugural year in 2020, Art Array has given artists from around the Muscatine area working in two-dimensional media an opportunity to exhibit their work in a juried show. This year, artists entered 29 pieces in the show, and judges Jennifer Saintfort, curator of the Augustana College Teaching Museum of Art, and Dawn Wolhford-Metello, visual arts director for Quad Cities Arts, selected 21 pieces for inclusion in the show. Saintfort and Wolhford-Metello had the honor of naming this year’s winners as well, which included first place honoree Karen Kurka Jensen with her two-panel work entitled “Star Dust,” Phil Laber in second place for his creation “Sono Americano,” and Peter Xiao with his third place work “Rumor Mill Clouds.”
March 17, the Art Center hosted a reception to honor all of the participating artists and to give Saintfort and Wolhford-Metello an opportunity to announce the winners. The artists also took time to speak with guests about their works, giving insight into the inspirations for each and the process they used to create them.
Each year, Art Array brings together a unique assemblage of art, and Muscatine County Arts Council member Ed Chamberlin found this year’s selections some of the most interesting yet. “I am always amazed at the quality of works, and the variety of different formats that show up at these shows,” he remarked.
Art Array will remain open at the Muscatine Art Center (1314 Mulberry Avenue, Muscatine) through May 29. Chamberlin highly recommends coming and visiting it in person before it closes.
For those who prefer to express themselves through creative writing rather than the visual arts, the Muscatine County Arts Council has brought back their Wandering Words Poetry Contest. Held each April in honor of National Poetry Month, the contest gives writers the chance to have a short poem displayed for posterity by having it etched into the concrete at a significant location in the city. Previous poems have found homes throughout downtown Muscatine, in Weed Park, outside the Muscatine Soccer Complex, and in front of landmarks such as the Muscatine County Courthouse, among other spots.
Poets of all ages may submit up to three original poems of no more than eight lines with 25 or fewer characters per line printed one sided and with all of their contact information on a separate page by mailing them to the Muscatine County Arts Council, P.O. Box 815, Muscatine, Iowa 52761-0815. Anyone wanting more information about submission may find it by visiting the Muscatine County Art Council’s website.
The Arts Council will select up to five winning poems to etch into the sidewalk at locations they will announce at a later date. A creative way to immortalize local writing and occasionally have it translated into other languages (as was done in front of the Sino-US Friendship Center and Stanley Consultants) Chamberlin looks forward to getting many submissions this year. “I encourage anyone from grade school to infinity to submit their works with the opportunity to see their works in concrete,” he said. Each of the winners will receive a $50 cash prize in addition to having their work publicly preserved.