Ioway Artist Exhibition & Culture Day

Living history Farms (LHF) is a 500-acre outdoor history museum where visitors can experience rural Iowa life during different time periods: 1700 (loway site), 1850 (Pioneer farm), 1875 (Frontier town), and 1900 (Horse-powered farm). Historical interpreters demonstrate daily routines and discuss life at the time. Each year interpreters help nearly 100,000 guests compare and contrast the lives of our ancestors to today while inviting them to get hands-on with history. There is great potential in a partnership between BeWildReWild and Living History Farms; as an agricultural history museum on 500 acres of properly, LHF has not only the space but also a narrative in which to highlight the three focal questions of BeWildReWild. The following project is proposed for 2020.

Ioway Artist Exhibition & Culture Day

The 1700 loway site tells the story of how the loway people ate, worked, and lived after European contact. Through architectural structures like a winter home, summer home, traveling home, and food drying rack, LHF introduces guests to the loway way of life. Each year we also hold an loway Culture Day to celebrate the loway culture.

Our request to BeWildReWild is for $5,000 to sponsor both an loway Artist Exhibition at Living History Farms and loway Culture Day. Your’ support will also cover the cost of signage acknowledging that the land on which LHF is located is the traditional territory of the loway and the Sioux.

LHF will hold our annual loway Culture Day on Saturday, July 11, 2020. This is a day on which we invite the public to join us in an extended exploration of loway history and culture using our loway site as a departure point. In conjunction with Iowa Culture Day, we also plan to present an loway Artist Exhibition, similar to the one you recently sponsored at Effigy Mounds National Monument. This display will include at least six pieces of artwork with descriptions. All live of the artists represented at the Effigy Mounds exhibit have confirmed their planned participation in our exhibit with many, if not all, of the same pieces of art—and perhaps one or two additions.

One of the artists, Sydney Pursel, has been invited to speak at the exhibition kick-off on loway Culture Day. She has agreed to block her calendar for these purposes, pending BeWildReWild funding. Not only will the loway Artist Exhibition at LHF provide a place for the artists to display their work, it will also draw people to the museum and to the exhibit. These guests will leave with greater understanding of wildness and thoughtful insights about their own relationships with nature. Similarly, visitors who participate in loway Culture Day will be able to discuss with Sydney Pursel the roles of nature and wildness in loway tribal traditions and current lifestyles. In addition, we hope that these collaborations will continue to build our museum’s relationships with members of the loway tribe.

How are we going to confront the three BeWildReWild guiding questions in ways that will inspire people?

1.         What do you/we mean by wild?

The art pieces in the planned exhibition were created by loway artists with the three BeWildReWild focal questions in mind. The pieces are varied and evocative; each gives unique insight into what it means to have a relationship with the wild. We anticipate that the art will inspire guests to think of wildness from a different perspective.

Another important aspect of this art is that it will break the common stereotype of wild being great forests or mountain ranges; these pieces will challenge the viewers’ concepts of wild and introduce the idea of Iowa/the Midwest being a place for wildness.

Both in her exhibition talk and in conversation during loway Culture Day, Sydney Pursel will discuss what “wild” means to her, along with wildness as viewed in loway cultural history and contemporary life.

2.         What lifestyle changes are needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability?

The art pieces are based on a more straightforward relationship with the land than what our guests will likely have. The art will give life to a culture in which people aide driven by survival rather than by the quest for nonessential possessions. They serve as reminders that life does not have to be life as we know it; there are other possibilities. Some of the pieces also highlight our interaction with/responsibility to the land and its other inhabitants. Through this art, we are challenging cultural understandings of “needs” and encouraging thought about what sustainable living looks like today. The same themes/questions will be explored by Sydney Pursel, one-on-one, with visitors during loway Culture Day.

3.         How can we create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed?

This project is about encouraging guests to interact with art that pose questions about our relationship to the watershed. These artworks and Sydney Pursel’s interactions with visitors will help them draw their own takeaways about the part they play in story of the wild. We hope this critical thinking and self-exploration will lead to engagement with the exhibit and with loway Culture Day, as well as long-lasting impacts on guests’ thoughts and actions. Signage acknowledging the traditional homelands on which this museum is located will provide an enduring prompt for each of us to consider our relationship to the history, protection, and preservation o1 the watershed.

Grant Details and Logistics

loway Cu1ture Day is scheduled for Saturday, July 11, 2020. Our plan is for the art exhibit to open in the gallery of Living History Farms’ main entrance building (the Visitor’s Center) on loway Culture Day and run through the remainder of our general Joining season (October 16, 2020).

If awarded, this grant will support:

  • loway Artist Exhibition at Living History Fanns (transportation of the art pieces to Living History Farms, the cost of staff time to setup/teardown before and after the exhibition is on display to the public)
  • loway Culture Day (specifically the costs associated with Sydney Pursel’s participation, including food, housing, travel, and speaking fee)
  • Signage acknowledging the tribal homelands on which Living History Farms is located


BeWildReWild will be recognized on all publicity/marketing materials related to the loway Artist Exhibition and loway Culture Day. Additionally, there will be signs either in or around the art exhibition recognizing BeWildReWild for their generous support in bringing this vision to life.