Iowa artists complete final barn painting
KEOSAUQUA, Iowa — As the old cliche goes, timing is everything.
It’s just not always the greatest thing.
No one can say whether it was fate, divine intervention or just weird luck that demolished the Galloway barn near the Van Buren County Fairgrounds July 19, but the timing couldn’t have been more surreal. The official cause of the barn’s destruction was high wind from a severe thunderstorm, which isn’t exactly news in Iowa.
But the barn was demolished just hours after a group of plein air painters documented the structure’s final day of existence. They were painting the barn as part of the plein air art competition at the Van Buren County Fair, not realizing their painted interpretations of the historic structure would be the last.
“I didn’t even hear about it until I was on my way here (the fair) this morning,” said plein air painter John Evans of Richland.
Evans received a text about the destruction while driving and hardly could believe what he was reading after he pulled over. He was there less than 24 hours before.
“It’s literally flat. All you can see is foundation. It was kind of shocking,” said Evans, a retired art teacher who now paints full time.
The Hawk Eye reports that the Galloway family was even more shocked. Marydawn Schuck grew up on the family farm that housed the barn. Her mother and stepfather, Sharon and Bob Galloway, still live in the brick house next door to it. The Galloways were visiting friends when the storm hit, and Schuck was the first to witness the aftermath. She lives about 10 miles away in Douds.
“I was over there that afternoon and took pictures of the artists who were painting,” she said.
After waiting out the storm at home, Schuck drove to her parents’ house again to make sure everything was OK. The nearby Keosauqua Lumberyard and Van Buren County Fairgrounds were damaged by the storm, though not as badly as the barn.
“I was so focused on the house, and when I was coming around the curve, I should have noticed the barn wasn’t there, but I didn’t. I was talking to my son on Bluetooth, and then I saw it, and I said, ‘Holy cow, the barn is gone,'” Schuck said.
Family friend Steve Kisling was the only witness to the barn’s demise, and he said the wind lifted the entire building 15 feet into the air before dropping and shattering it.
The Galloways were disappointed to lose the historic barn, but they said it ranked low in priority next to the tornadoes that wrought destruction across Iowa the same day.
“It could have been worse, like Pella or Mashalltown,” Schuck said.
Most of the debris had been cleaned up by Friday evening, providing a literal glimpse into the barn’s history. The foundation of the 132-year-old barn (the only thing left) was built into a small hill, which created a natural basement that could be used as another floor for livestock.
“It was cooler during the summertime, and warmer in the winter,” said local barn expert Brad Klodt.
Formerly known as the Midway Stock Barn due to its central location in Van Buren County, the barn had been in the Galloway family for generations. The old wood is nothing but splinters now, but the memory of the grand structure — one of the biggest barns built in the area at the time — will live on through the perfectly timed paintings.