Artist in Residence Program at Waubonsie State Park near Hamburg, Iowa

(left to right)--Artist in Residence Tom Harnack and Waubonsie State Park Manager, Matt Moles.

(Hamburg)--Waubonsie State Park near Hamburg is already a beautiful, pristine place to rest the soul and take in the awesomeness of nature.  These days there's even more reason to take in the tranquility of Waubonsie.

It's the inaugural Artist in Residence Program, the first of its kind to be implemented in any of Iowa's State Parks.

According to Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development, who is working with Waubonsie State Park in this cultural effort, the goal is to connect with a broader audience of park-goers, increasing the number of visitors and ultimately educating more people about the Loess Hills ecosystem.

Waubonsie State Park Manager, Matt Moles, is excited about the program.

"This idea was introduced to me awhile back from some folks who had visited national parks that were hosting artists in residence.  We had a living space available and we had a little bit of work space that we could spare and that's really all you need to give an artist some space to work in," he says.

"We also have this beautiful landscape that can quiet the mind and inspire that kind of work."

The artist working in that landscape, the program's first Artist in Residence, is Tom Harnack of Malvern.  Originally from Carroll, Iowa, Tom has dedicated his life to art, specifically ceramics, for 37 years. (see video)

Tom loves creating art in Southwest Iowa.

"When people think of the arts and culture they usually think of Eastern Iowa and what's going on in Western Iowa is really stepping it up-the music scene, the food scene, the art scene, it's really coming into its own identity," he says.

This may be Waubonsie State Park's first Artist in Residence Program, but it's not the first for Tom, as he's had similar experiences in Florida and China.  He's psyched up for his one-month adventure.

"Any time you can get to a place where you're being supported and people are allowing you to do the work that you want to do, that's what an artist needs," says Tom.

Tom might be the first Artist in Residence at Waubonsie State Park, but he won't be the last.

"We'll have it running for the next three months," says Matt. "Each of the three artists that are coming to stay at the park will stay for a 30-day span, so we'll wrap it up before we get back into our main recreation season in April."

Tom's residency studio is set up at the Washawtee Maintenance Shed just south of the main lodge and the general public will get the opportunity to come and learn about ceramics from 6pm to 8pm February 5th, 7th, 12th and 14th.

In addition, we're all invited to Tom's final public outreach celebration at Washawtee Lodge Friday, February 15th from 6pm to 8pm, where folks can enjoy a potluck dinner, check out Tom's amazing ceramic works of art and learn about his life's passion as well.

For more information contact Golden Hills RC & D at 712-482-3029 or go to goldenhillsrcd.org.

You can reach Matt by calling 712-382-2786 or go to Waubonsie@dnr.iowa.gov.

For more insights, take a look at Matt and Tom's video here at KMAland.com.