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A New Epicenter of Art: Afghani and American Women Photographers in Kimballton, Iowa
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A New Epicenter of Art: Afghani and American Women Photographers in Kimballton, Iowa

If you were asked to name an Iowa epicenter of art, what city would you choose? Des Moines? Iowa City? Sioux City? What if I suggested Kimballton?

Yes, tiny little Kimballton in far central western Audubon County. Population 322 as of 2010. A Danish immigrant community usually paired with its sibling, Elkhorn, just a few miles to the south.

If measured by size, the artistic presence of Kimballton might be a mere blip. If measured by impact, however, the result is much more impressive.

The town hosts the New Century Art Guild, and the guild was a co-sponsor of an incredible photography project. Women photographers from the Omaha/Council Bluffs area and Herat, Afghanistan were invited to take part in this project. (Council Bluffs is a sibling city with Herat.) Photographers were invited to submit a photograph responding to one of the following themes: "How I Greet the Day", "The Wisdom of Age", "The Spark of Youth", "Celebrating My Loved Ones", and "Practicing My Faith".

The resulting artwork, "My Sister's Smile", was displayed in Omaha and Herat in the spring coinciding with March 8's International Women's Day. The photos will soon be an exhibition at the Afghani embassy in Washington, D.C.  For now, they are displayed at New Century Art Guild.

An exhibition of this magnitude and importance would be welcome in any museum across the state. It's even more impressive then, that it originated from the New Century Art Guild.

Troy Muller, M.F.A. is the executive director of the guild and the sculptor of a wonderful sculpture garden just up the street from the guild. The garden centers around the Little Mermaid statue that sits in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark. Ringing the mermaid sculpture and fountain are smaller but breathtaking sculptures representing some of Hans Christian Anderson's tales such as "The Little Mermaid", "The Emperor's New Clothes", and "The Ugly Duckling".

Elkhorn is just a few miles away and should be included on this agenda. There, one can visit the Danish Museum of America, including its charming and bright red immigrant house sitting on the prairie. Originally built in North Dakota, it was later moved to Elkhorn.

The house is not the only mobile resident of Elkhorn. In the late 1970s, the town raised money to purchase, disassemble, ship to Iowa, and reassemble a Danish windmill. The windmill sits right on the main highway. Currently, its blades rest on the ground. A fundraising campaign is underway to repair the blades and restore the windmill.

And next to the windmill is a replica Viking house.

"My Sister's Smile" is one of the first astonishing art exhibitions that New Century Art Guild has hosted. It certainly will not be the last.

If you are in the vicinity of Elkhorn and Kimballton, you should treat yourself to Danish and Danish immigrant views of the world, as well as to an ambitious art center in, as they say-- the middle of nowhere.  You'll see some incredible art and come away with entirely new perspectives.

Image credit: Author Photo

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    This sounds picture perfect! Thanks for contributing to the Travel Iowa blog!
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