Three new exhibits to open at Forest Park Museum in Perry

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A young female Blanding's turtle named April and a small male midland painted turtle names Memphis are the newest residents of the Dallas County Conservation Board's Forest Park Museum in Perry.

I always enjoy the challenge of coming up with new exhibit ideas that are inexpensive, don’t take up too much space and, above all, are interesting to the public. In 2016 I am very pleased that no less than three of these ideas became reality.

For several years, I wanted to put a small, lockable display case in the front reception area of Hastie Building. This case would display some of the strange and very interesting relics in the museum’s collection. These unique items range from a piece of Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress to battlefield relics and oddities like a rock from Fidel Castro’s yard.

One piece that I’ve always wanted on permanent display is the photo of Babe Ruth with Perry baseball players in 1920s Dallas County. That case is now installed, and I will be putting some of these items and many others in it over the coming weeks. Every few weeks, I will rotate which items are on display.

I work closely with many local and regional groups each year. For the past decade, I worked closely with the Perry PACES program. This program has enriched the lives of many Perry area students and makes a real difference in the community.

This summer the students put together an exhibit on the increasingly rare and possibly endangered Blanding’s turtle. This secretive water turtle has been described as a “leaky box turtle” and is rarely seen by Iowans. It was discovered by the Fox River in Illinois by Dr. John Blanding, an avid naturalist, in 1830.

For the past few decades, this yellow throated “smiling turtle” has seen population decreases throughout the Midwest due to nest destruction by Raccoons and other predators. The turtles’ trying to cross roads between fragmented habitats is not helping matters and contributing to more casualties.

PACES students designed a habitat for our young female turtle and a small male midland painted turtle. These turtles are now known as April and Memphis, and they live in a rock-filled aquarium with several hiding places and climbing areas.

Both are eating well, and April in particular is becoming very personable with visitors. Blanding’s turtles are known for becoming very friendly and begging for food when they are used to people.

Sometimes I think our entire world is largely a giant marketing campaign for a huge number of products and services. I find that some of the best marketed items aren’t always the best. Nowhere is this more evident than the art world. Many of Iowa’s finest artists have yet to receive any recognition for their work.

One of our state’s great unknown artists is the late William Sturdevant. A Des Moines native, Sturdevant was born in 1922 and attended Drake University and earned a master’s degree in art education.

A younger contemporary of Grant Wood, he won many different prestigious awards throughout his early career and was a very skilled painter and sculptor who experimented with many different styles.

In spite of his early successes, he never became well known and instead chose to concentrate on his career as an art teacher. Consequently, many central Iowa art educators were trained or heavily influenced by him.

More than 1,200 Sturdevant works are preserved by a nonprofit organization set up by his daughter. Forest Park Museum will display a revolving selection of these pieces over the next year. We hope to introduce many local residents to this truly outstanding artist and promote awareness of other Iowa artists in the future.

I look forward to showing these new additions to museum visitors. Don’t forget we are open on weekdays year round from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and from May 1 to Oct. 31 we are also open from 1-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Karina Levy, left, daughter of the artist William Sturdevant, points out details in one of her father's realistic works painted in his studio in Mexico. A collection of Sturdevant's works will be permanently exhibited at the Forest Park Museum in Perry.
Karina Levy, left, daughter of the artist William Sturdevant, points out details in one of her father’s realistic works painted in his studio in Mexico. A collection of Sturdevant’s works will be permanently exhibited at the Forest Park Museum in Perry.

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