A new chapter began in Iowa’s State Parks last week as the Artist in Residence Program kicked off at Waubonsie State Park. 
The goal of the residency is to connect with a broader audience of park-goers, thus increasing the number of visitors and ultimately educating more people about the Loess Hills ecosystem. 
The artists and visitors will engage with the natural resources of the park through a visual arts lens.
Artists will use their time at Waubonsie to immerse themselves in the landscape as a source of inspiration and opportunity to intensely focus on their work.
In exchange for their accommodations, they will leave a permanent work of art for the park and also conduct a public engagement session during their stay.
Tom Harnack is the program’s first Artist in Residence. 
He was born and raised in Carroll area and has been a dedicated artist for the past 37 years. 
Harnack received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1995. 
In 1998, he worked and studied in Shigaraki, Japan, at a center that dates back to the twelfth century. 
From his experience there, Harnack has built two anagama kilns in the Midwest. 
Harnack also co-founded Omaha ClayWorks in 2000.  He is accomplished in all aspects of ceramics and continues to introduce others to the art through demonstrations and classes. 
Excited about the opportunity for a residency program at Waubsonsie State Park,  Harnack reflects on the Loess Hills.
“I feel as an artist, nature is my main inspiration,” he said.
“When I fire my wood kiln, it takes 7 days outdoors.  Whether it be the owls in the grove, or the stars before sunrise, it’s being in the natural environment that inspires my creativity.”
Harnack’s residency at Waubonsie lasts through mid-February.  As part of the outreach portion of this program, there will be four opportunities for open studio times. 
The public is invited to join Harnack at the Washawtee Maintenance Shed (smaller building off the south parking lot of the Lodge) where his residency studio is set up. 
Visitors will have a chance to learn about the art of ceramics, watch Harnack while he creates and ask questions in a relaxed intimate setting. 
Open studio hours are from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5; Thursday, Feb. 7; Tuesday, Feb. 12; or Thursday, Feb. 14.
Visitors are encouraged to come early to hike around the park and explore the wonders of Waubonsie! 
Harnack’s final public outreach event will be a celebration at Washawtee Lodge on Friday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. 
There will be a potluck dinner and viewing of some of Harnack’s works from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a presentation of the history of Harnack’s career in ceramics, which started at a young age and has taken him across the world.
Harnack is one of three artists who were selected from a multitude of applications received from artists in six states and a variety of disciplines. 
Additional artists receiving the residency awards for January through April of 2019 include Vanessa Lacy of Kansas City, Mo., and Zack Jones of Malvern. 
This first-in-the-state Artist in Residency program at one of Iowa’s State Parks is held at one of the region’s ecological and recreational treasures.
Located in the Loess Hills of Southwest Iowa, Waubonsie State Park’s 2,000 acres feature prairies, savannas, and woodlands which are home to diverse flora and fauna, not to mention breathtaking vistas.
Park Manager Matt Moles has been working with Golden Hills RC and D Project Coordinator Lance Brisbois and Loess Hills National Scenic Byway Coordinator Rebecca Castle to develop and launch the project. 
While there have been other artist residency programs offered through the National Parks System and select parks in other states, this will be the first such program in one of Iowa’s State Parks.
The program is loosely modeled after similar regional programs such as the Residency Program at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.
The artists will receive lodging in a studio cabin and a primitive studio space in the park at no cost for the duration of the residency.
In return, artists will deliver at least one public program per month of their residency and donate one piece of art to the park at the conclusion of their stay.
To learn more about the Artist in Residence program and the artists, visit www.goldenhillsrcd.org/artist-in-residence.