Mason City, also called “River City” has an amazing array of art and sculptures on parade and they encourage the public to choose their favorite and vote on it! River City Sculptures on Parade is a non-profit group and they are in a partnership with SculptureOne. This partnership has programs like this that exist in Sioux Falls, SD, Mankato, MN, Eau Claire, WI and Castlegar, British Columbia. This beautiful art and sculpture is on display along a 1.7 mile walk. I thought I saw most of the sculptures during my recent hosted visit to the Mason City, Iowa with my mom Lora Disque, until I looked at the complete list online and realized I saw only a portion!
Sculptures on Parade
We would argue over which one was our favorite. At first, hands down, I thought it was The Farmer, with the weather-beaten beauty, this artist caught my heart especially because my husband is a farmer.
This is on permanent display being a previous People’s choice winner. My favorite this year may be may be Puddle Hunt because of the sheer joy the artist shows of a child in the rain. The sculptures are owned by the artists and loaned to the exhibit for one year, then the public is invited and encouraged to vote for their favorite sculpture from June to September, and the sculpture receiving the most votes is honored with the “People’s Choice Award”. This sculpture is then purchased by the city to become part the permanent collection. There are many sculptures throughout the city and permanent art that adds to the beauty of the town. There is the war memorial in the park across from the Historic Park Inn, and then there is the sculpture of Frank Lloyd Wright titled American Architect where he keeps watch on the hotel he designed.
The McNider Art Museum
Art and sculpture and church windows of stained glass beauty dot the town and along with the Music Man Museum and the streetscape, there is of course, the MacNider Art Museum! The MacNider Art Museum, is officially named the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum. The museum was conceived in 1964 and opened to the public in 1966. The museum is known for its collection of American art, and includes paintings, prints, drawings, ceramics, sculpture, fused and blown glass and textiles. The building itself is a piece of art. It is a large house that was built by Burr Keeler of the Mason City Brick and Tile Company in 1920-1921. It is of English Tudor design with the first floor constructed of stone and the second of ornamental brickwork inset with half-timber designs. From the basement to the third floor the building was formed of solid concrete and hollow tile. The interior features walnut woodwork and terrazzo tile floors. In 1932 the house was the home of the Duffield family then from 1948 to 1965, the home was occupied by nuns, the Presentation Sisters of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. According to the museum history, “only minor interior changes were made in the house during those years.”
With this fascinating history, it is very cool that in 1964 General and Mrs. Hanford MacNider purchased the building with the idea of donating to Mason City with the stipulation that it be staffed and maintained as an arts center. There is no fee to visit the museum. The museum is named in the memory of the General’s father, a former president of the First National Bank of Mason City. A few additions have been made over the years and the museum that overlooks Willow Creek is a beautiful place that brings art to this lovely town.
I was anxious to see the collection of Bill Baird puppets that are featured in the art museum. Baird grew up in Mason City. It was exciting to see puppets that were featured in the movie The Sound of Music. Bill Baird was responsible for the “Goat Herd” marionette performance in the film. According to the museum website, “The MacNider Collection of Baird puppets is the largest holding of the late puppeteer’s work to be found anywhere. Displays feature puppets, marionettes, and other materials created and collected by the Mason City High School graduate and world-famous puppet master.”
We enjoyed the paintings, the puppets and the house. I walked away with a beautiful piece of beautiful pottery that mom and I both fought over made by a local art teacher that was very reasonably priced.
Mason City is filled with art. Its buildings, the parks, and even a bench where I sat and had my picture taken was a piece of art. It makes me want to go back and see what I missed!