Get Your ART On!

Malvern Church

Woodbine Grain Bin

Oakland Mural

The Loess Hills Missouri River Region has many opportunities for engagement with the arts!  If you’re looking for a truly authentic arts experience, look no further than Harrison, Mills and Pottawattamie Counties!  Council Bluffs has plenty of arts experiences, but don’t overlook the outlying rural towns.  Given the right mindset and a little inspiration, small rural communities can become destinations for artists and their enthusiasts.  This day trip itinerary will take you through some of the highlights for the arts in our region.  Start where you’d like, all in one day or break it up into smaller trips!  We have suggested a minimum time to allow for each stop, but you may want to budget for more if you’re planning on eating (which we highly recommend!) or doing other activities.  Some of the locations have limited hours or are by appointment only, so it’s always a good idea to call ahead!

Malvern Church

Woodbine Grain Bin

Oakland Mural

Artfully Growing Communities

Malvern (60 Minutes) – There’s a reason that Malvern is “Artfully Growing”.  This community of about 1,000 people has really embraced the role of the arts in their community.  Not only have they realized that creative placemaking and an active arts community helps attract visitors to their town, but it also attracts new residents.  With quality of life at the forefront of people’s minds when they are looking for a place to live, small towns like Malvern have a lot to offer!  The influx of tourists and new residents alike help their small businesses thrive.  Downtown is the perfect place to start your day off!  Between C&M’s Café, The Classic Café (with a historical mural of Malvern by Zack Jones and many of his paintings regularly on display) and Moreau’s Backerei, your breakfast and lunch options are plentiful.  Take your craft coffee to-go and explore downtown!  Woody Jones has created five metal tree sculptures that have been installed downtown, each as unique as they are beautiful.  (Interesting note:  there is a different bird hidden in the branches of each tree.  See if you can find them all!)  One tree has silver leaves that flutter in the wind, one has vines planted at the base that are climbing the limbs to create a living sculpture, one is a slick black with silver leaves, one is a rustic weathered steel, and the most recent installation has a lively face on the trunk and branches full of bicycles.  In the background of the bike tree is a 30’ by 60’ mural by Zack Jones, depicting a scene from the Wabash Trace, complete with one of the iconic overhead truss railroad bridges, a cyclist, and native flora and fauna. 

If you want to see more of Zack’s larger-than-life works, call ahead and schedule a visit to the Art Church.  This former Presbyterian Church gained a new life when Zack converted it into a studio, gallery, event venue and overnight accommodations.  The interior ceilings and walls are painted as a Midwest sunset scene.  From the Art Church, a block and a half walk around the corner will get you to Fine Arts on 5th, owned by artist Marge Boska.  In addition to studio classes by herself and other artists, Fine Arts on 5th features works by roughly a dozen regional artists.  During the Southwest Iowa Art Tour, the art community seems even larger!  Located between Art Church and Fine Arts on 5th, artists Anna Stoysich and Jorge Chavez have Colorado Studios open from their home during the 3rd weekend in September!  If you get the chance, you’ll also want to visit Malvern on a Saturday night in the summer for the Malvern Market Concert Series.  Regional musicians play at Heritage Park downtown, and local vendors sell their produce and wares.

Looking for More?

Macedonia (45 Minutes) – Paul and Carol Jean Koch, owners of Pottery by the Creek, made a wonderful addition to the community when they branched out from their custom home studio and gallery to add a gallery space in downtown Macedonia.  The Painted Camel Gallery is a unique space featuring over 30 area artists.  The gallery and its artwork are both what you would expect to find in Omaha’s Old Market – yet it’s right here in a town of 245 people!  Regular hours are Thursday and Friday Noon – 5 PM and 10 AM – 3 PM on Saturday, or call to set up an appointment!  While you’re there, you will also notice the railings on the raised sidewalks are works of art, and be sure to make it to the park to see the Macedonia Eagle of Honor, “Trails of Honor”.  This Veterans’ Memorial is one of many throughout and beyond the county created by artist Russell Christensen of Neola.  If you are hungry or thirsty, stop by the Back 40 and enjoy made-to order food and a variety of drinks.

The Painted Camel

More Culture, More Towns

Oakland (15 Minutes) – Just up the road from Macedonia, make a stop in Oakland to check out some of their public art.  At Chautauqua Park, the Pottawattamie County Freedom Rock sits just off of Highways 6 and 59.  The 57th of the 99 Freedom Rocks to be completed in Iowa, it depicts 4 of Pottawattamie County’s fallen veterans.  Nearby is the Oakland Eagle of Honor plaza, home to “Branches of Honor”, another installation in Russell Christensen’s Eagles of Honor project.  A little jaunt downtown will take you to the Nishna Heritage Museum.  On the north side of the building, you can’t miss Zack Jones’ 100’ by 20’ mural depicting a farmer, an oak grove and Oakland’s active playground.

Neola (45 Minutes) –Russell and Penny Christensen have created art in their gallery for over 37 years.  Penny’s Visions Art Gallery in Neola not only is home to their art, but that of other area artists as well.  Russell, a photographer and bronze sculptor, is the artist for the Eagles of Honor project.  Penny creates not only paintings and poems, but is inspiring the next generation of artists through her art classes at their studio.  (Hint:  if you’re interested in the Eagles of Honor project, call ahead and see if Russ & Penny can walk through the process with you – it’s very interesting!)

Woodbine (60 Minutes) – Like Malvern, Woodbine has embraced the arts and used it as a redevelopment tool for their downtown.  The grain elevator on the south end of town was rehabilitated and an agriculture-themed public art piece with LED lighting was added to the façade.  Downtown, there is a sculpture garden between two buildings, featuring a large metal dinosaur skeleton as well as other smaller sculptures.  A stroll down the Lincoln Highway & Brick Street Historic District’s sidewalks will reveal multiple sculpture installments that are the fruit of the Main Street program’s annual sculpture competitions.  While you’re out and about, stop in at Building Grounds, a coffee shop with unique gift items including those made at the connected Heavy Metal Renaissance, a metal shop specializing in sculptures and one-of-a-kind pieces.  Up the block, stop in for a bite or a drink at Good Fellows, a homestyle American restaurant in the historic former Odd Fellows building.

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WanderLoess is coordinated by ​Golden Hills RC&D, a grassroots nonprofit based in Oakland, Iowa, as part of the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan. Funding for coordination is provided by Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills counties and Iowa West Foundation. With the help of our many partners making this destination dream a reality.

Our Partners

 
 

WanderLoess is coordinated by ​Golden Hills RC&D, a grassroots nonprofit based in Oakland, Iowa, as part of the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan. Funding for coordination is provided by Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills counties and Iowa West Foundation. With the help of our many partners making this destination dream a reality.

Our Partners

 
 

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