CORONAVIRUS

'Roadside attraction' shares art on Marion fence

For passersby, a respite from hunkering down

Artist Shane McCallister walks Tuesday with his son, Smith, 4, past his artwork on display in the front yard of his home
Artist Shane McCallister walks Tuesday with his son, Smith, 4, past his artwork on display in the front yard of his home in Marion. “I’m just so happy with the response to this project,” he said. “It warms my heart how the community is appreciating this gesture.” (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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MARION — Every morning, if weather allows, Shane McCallister hangs artwork on the fence outside his house.

McCallister, 32, hopes his “roadside attraction” on the corner of 13th Avenue and Ninth Street helps alleviate some of the cabin fever of passersby who are hunkering down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I’m just so happy with the response to this project,” he said. “It warms my heart how the community is appreciating this gesture.”

McCallister’s artwork joins that of hundreds of thousands of people across the United States who are decorating their houses with paper hearts or putting stuffed bears in their windows for “bear hunts” — scavenger hunts where kids look for bears.

The trend of sharing art during this time originated on Facebook and picked up speed fast as states impose shelter-at-home orders and social-distancing guidelines.

McCallister, an image editor at Nordstrom Photo Studio who has found himself working from home the past few weeks, said it’s been fun to watch families walk by or get out of their cars to take a closer look at his art.

McCallister collects leaves and flower petals to create his art, which he scans in and then uses Photoshop to create his portraits.

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“The idea behind it is to show how we’re all kind of connected to this world,” he said.

The Marion resident’s favorite piece is one of Greta Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist from Sweden who attracted thousands during a visit last fall to Iowa City.

“I used a lot of dry, tough leaves to work with her message. It’s a metaphor,” McCallister said.

Another favorite of his is the Iowa Wave, showing fans at Hawkeye home football games waving to young patients at the nearby University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. That picture sold in December and the money was donated to the Children’s Hospital, he said.

McCallister gets a lot of his ideas from seeing people being interviewed on TV and thinking, “I need to learn more about this person.”

“I’ve got a list of people I’m inspired by,” McCallister said.

The project — creating art with nature — began ore than four years ago, McCallister said. His wife was pregnant at the time, and he found himself appreciating the beauty of the fall leaves.

“I started collecting them, and I originally was going to start making a picture for my son’s room and it grew and grew,” McCallister said.

McCallister finds Marion to be the perfect community to share his artwork, with its rich history and events like the Marion Arts Festival, he said.

“I think people around here appreciate artwork a lot,” McCallister said.

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And his art is for sale. Anyone who wishes to purchase a picture can ring his doorbell or message him on his Facebook page SMAC Artist.

“I hope everyone is getting through this as smoothly as possible and enjoying all the extra family time,” McCallister said. “I know I am.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.