Pearson Lakes Art Center marks 50 years with 50 works

The first half of 2015 has been one of upheaval for Pearson Lakes Art Center. The executive director, visual arts director and tech director have all changed this Spring, and the art center marks its half century mark this year. Traditionally anniversaries with zeroes in them create opportunities for very public events. The PLAC staff set a goal of developing meaningful works of community engagement.

One of these initiatives is 50 Works for 50 years, with works by N.C. Wyeth, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse and others, all from PLAC’s collection built over the past century.

During visual arts director Britney Hansen’s gallery talk, two board members reminisced about the early years of PLAC. The Center was housed in a small, red cabin, commemorated in one of the exhibit’s included paintings. A tree grew up through the cabin, which presented challenges in curation, exhibition and showing. In the beginning, Pearson Lakes Art Center was meant to showcase world and local visual art work. Since its move to the current location, the exhibit and education spaces have expanded, and the center also includes the Lauridsen Performing Art Center which, until recently, housed the Lakes Community Theatre, and has been home to numerous touring groups as well as a regular stop for opera singer Simon Estes and cabaret singer Marilyn Maye.

The 50 Works for 50 Years exhibit also features a floating chalkboard post where viewers can share their ideas and thoughts about the paintings to share with others.  “I wanted space for everyone to participate in the exhibit,” Hansen said. “I hope the public will come in and use all of this space. Sprawl on the benches and stare at a piece of art for hours! Bring a notebook or sketch pad. I’m here every day and most of the time Saturdays, too. Tell me what you think of the artwork here.”

The other exhibit was Lakeside Lab: Tonic of the Wilderness.  In the summer of 2014, seven artists converged on the University of Iowa’s Lakeside Lab, on West Lake Okoboji, to create art in the natural environment of the Iowa “wilderness.” One of the artists, photographer Cathleen Faubert, took photographs of her process of creating bottled scents from elements of our environment, so observers could experience the sight and smell of Iowa.

Photographer Allen Morris, a recent MFA graduate of University of Nebraska who hails from Oregon, described his search for a discovery of truth through taking and processing photographs of the Iowa natural environment. He was particularly struck by the challenge of developing photographs in a way that did not disrupt the natural environment, as well as the discovery of new things in a place he had never been.

Executive Director Tim Hoheisel provided context and summary for both exhibits. In his two months leading the art center, Hoheisel says he has felt thrown into an organization just beginning to reach its potential. As summer visitors converge on the Okoboji area beginning this weekend, the opportunity to show the reach of the art center excites Hoheisel, and his hope is that everyone will experience all the art at Pearson Lakes.