"Northeast Iowa: A Quarter Century Retrospective"

Photographs by Robert Campagna
April 22 – May 24, 2015
Center for Faith and Life

A gallery reception will be held on Wednesday, April 22, from 4:30 – 6:30 pm, in the upper level of the Center for Faith and Life. All are invited to attend.

Robert Campagna

Robert Campagna is a photographer and Cedar Rapids native who has lived in Loveland, Colorado since 2007, where he is affiliated with ArtWorks Loveland, an artists’ collective and serves as a board member of the Heart J Education Center. Though he is currently residing in Colorado, Campagna has lived in the Midwest for many years, with Iowa residency in Turkey Valley, Valley of Elgin, North Winneshiek, Fredericksburg, Postville, Starmont, West Delaware, Cascade, Charles City, and Keystone AEA. In Iowa, Campagna teaches at College for Kids in Cedar Rapids, something he has done since 1998, and he is presently engaged in a book writing project at LaSalle Middle School, also in Cedar Rapids. Over the past 30 years, Campagna has taught over 400 photography workshops to over 11,000 students. He continues to work as an artist-in-residence in both Iowa and Colorado, teaching film and printmaking photography as well as digital publications.

This show features examples of Robert Campagna’s selenium toned, film-based photographs of people and landscapes in Northeastern Iowa. The photos were taken between 1983-2008 while Campagna was teaching as an artist-in-residence through the Iowa Arts Council. In November, 2014 his exhibit “Walking with Ghosts,” a study of abandonment, opened at ArtWorks Loveland. Other recent exhibits include “Contemporary Retrospective” and “EYE DANCE: In Honor, Beauty and Place.” Campagna primarily uses black and white film with his Hasselblad being the “camera of choice.” He also uses small (35mm), large (4x5) format film cameras and digital.

Campagna has published calendars, posters, postcards and notecards of his work, and sells images as fine art.

Additional information or purchases can be made by contacting the artist at [email protected], or by phone at 319-560-6889.

Artist's Statement

“As a Loras College freshman in 1967, I wondered about origins. Many classmates came from towns named Guttenburg, Ossian, Holy Cross, Luxemburg, Waukon, Elkader, Garnavillo, and Marquette. As a “big city boy” (Cedar Rapids) I couldn’t imagine living in a remote circumstance. My world was narrow. However, I was also curious.

I started to understand and embrace the “back to the earth” concept. I wanted to live in an “upstream” place with pure water, clear skies, where one could live off the land.

In 1970 I was a weekend resident in a pasture west of Wadena when it temporarily became Iowa’s eighth largest city with around 40,000 rock festival partyers.

Upon graduation from the University of Iowa in 1971, I interviewed to teach in Waukon and Postville. I remember driving there with my father, stopping for lunch in West Union. Waukon High School had a most visible FFA presence.Postville touted itself as having the “highest percentage of paved streets” of any Iowa city.

Connection with northeastern Iowa grew. We canoed the Upper Iowa River and visited friends who moved to Decorah, Fayette, and Postville.

In 1982 I became an artist-in-residence through the Iowa Arts Council. On October 28, 1983 my very first photography residency day started at Valley High School in Elgin, thanks to a grant written by school librarian Rhonda Sheeley. It was the first of six photo residencies at Valley.

In 1987 Rhonda and I drove a group of photographers to Taos, New Mexico as a reward for their good work.

A few years later a long term residency connection began with Turkey Valley, thanks to TVCS language arts teacher Mary Jo Hangartner (see Mary Jo’s foreword). Again, the building of tradition reaped opportunity. I thrice took TVCS students to Taos (also a place where I had teaching connections).

Additional northeast Iowa residencies took place in Fredericksburg, North Winneshiek, Postville, Cascade, West Delaware and Starmont. From these local bases, my dream of “living” in northeast Iowa came true...one week at a time.

The photographs herein are among the thousands taken during my 25 years as a guest artist in schools. In small groups, we walked the communities, visited farms, ate local cuisine, explored backroads, and ultimately created magic. We were not “tourists,” rather we engaged people and became “insiders” one question, one comment, one venture at a time.

This exhibit is my Thank You to the hundreds of people we encountered and who allowed me to photograph both their place as well as themselves. Through this exhibit I pay honor to the good people and beautiful setting of northeast Iowa.

In gratitude and recognition,
Robert Campagna”

Robert Campagna, 2014-2015