Splendor in the Grass

by The Nature Conservancy of Iowa

A Traveling Photography Exhibit of Iowa Prairies

The Iowa Nature Conservancy joined with Ankeny photographer Gary D. Tonhouse in 1997 to spread the word on Iowa's endangered prairies by assisting with the exhibition of his Iowa Prairies show.

The show consists of 50 stunning cibachrome prints of Iowa's native flora and fauna. The photos were on exhibit for the spring 1997 opening of the new Prairie Learning Center at Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Partial funding for printing and mounting the exhibit was provided by Taylor Ball of Iowa and the subcontractors and suppliers that built the center.

In 1997 the exhibit traveled some 2,000 miles, including shows at DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge, Grand View College, Smulekoff's in Cedar Rapids and Kirkendall Public Library in Ankeny. In 1998, the exhibit will visited Indianola High School, The Principal Financial Group, Lakes Art Center and Plymouth County Historical Museum and the University of Northern Iowa Museum.

The Nature Conservancy is assisting with the traveling exhibit as part of our educational efforts to make more Iowans aware of their irreplaceable prairie heritage. 
We also will be hosting some opening receptions in conjunction with the exhibit where Tonhouse and representatives from the Conservancy will be present.

Tonhouse, general superintendent for Taylor Ball in Des Moines, has been exploring and photographing the tallgrass prairies of Iowa in his spare time for the past 12 years. His ability to bring emotions, feeling and life to his images makes this an important exhibit to see. His work is driven by a deep passion for the natural world and his desire to preserve a precious heritage - not just with photographs, but by motivating his viewers to get active in conservation efforts.

Tonhouse expresses his passion for the prairie in words as well as pictures. "Try to envision what Iowa must have been like more than 150 years ago. It's early morning, a low-hanging veil of fog drifts silently over the top of a sea of grasses. The early morning sunrise casts its warm glow on colorful, fragrant flowers as far as the eye and mind can envision. Bobolinks and meadowlarks greet the early morning glow with their wondrous songs. It's a new day in Iowa ... Iowa was once covered with this scene. Twenty million acres, and today only 1/10 of 1% of those acres remain."

It is hoped that viewers of the exhibit will be filled with the same passion and desire to preserve Iowa's prairies that Tonhouse was as he photographed these images, and that they'll actively support the Conservancy's efforts.

Many of the images were photographed at preserves owned by The Nature Conservancy. During 1998, several workshops will be jointly sponsored by Tonhouse and the Conservancy using our preserves as places to explore and photograph the wonders of nature.
For more information, call the Conservancy office at (515) 244-5044 or
contact Gary D.Tonhouse at:   Reflective Images Photography

I would like to thank  The Nature Conservancy, Gary Rieners and Claudia Cackler 
for letting me reprint this article.

(c) 1998, The Nature Conservancy
For Iowa Prairies Splendor in the Grass Exhibit schedule click HERE.
For Endangered Land Photography Workshops click HERE.

                                                    Iowa Prairie Exhibit InformationNature Photography by Gary D.TonhouseNature Photography Galleries