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I arrived in Dubuque 50 years ago as a college student at the University of Dubuque. It is where I met Linda Breitbach whom I married upon graduation and we’ve been together 46 years. While attending college, I worked two jobs that would shape the trajectory of my life. One was radio broadcasting (I worked at WDBQ and KDTH), and I learned a lot about the Dubuque community, its people, its institutions and businesses. The other job was as a janitor at Frank Hardie Advertising where I must admit I had the best education of my life.
Frank Hardie was a sign company that employed some very clever and creative people who were artists and craftsmen and who became my friends and mentors. Though I never took an art class in college, I became a graphic designer, a skill set that served me throughout my working life. You can see many of my design contributions to Dubuque’s landscape including the welcome signs constructed of brick, limestone and steel, Dubuque’s historic district signs and the wayfinding signs that identify Dubuque’s districts and attractions (Port of Dubuque, Downtown, Eagle Point, West End, South End, etc.).
Working for John Deere for nearly 20 years, I became an award-winning employee communications professional, honed my photography and writing skills, and became a pioneer in applying technology to graphic design and production. I wrote two best-selling books on computer graphics and multimedia design.
I left John Deere in 1994 to pursue other interests, among them designing websites for the ever-evolving World Wide Web, producing national award-winning educational cable shows for the Dubuque Community School District and creating innovative on-line streaming media content. I learned to leverage technology to expand my creative ideas and capabilities as a designer and multimedia producer.
I retired in 2012 from Dubuque Schools to pursue purely artistic endeavors doing everything from portraits to landscapes. My work hangs in the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and in several homes and public spaces throughout Dubuque and beyond. I have video cameras in my 800 square-foot art studio that record me drawing and painting at my easel. The resulting videos are posted to my YouTube channel and accessible from my website, garyolsen.com.
My most recent commission was a painting and print for the Rotary Club celebrating it’s 100 years in Dubuque and its commitment to America’s River Project that helped change Dubuque’s historic riverfront from industrial to something more accessible to the public. To get precisely the dramatic viewpoint I needed for this cityscape, I utilized a drone video camera.
I’ve had a life rich in creative enterprise and I continue exploring new methods of expressing myself visually. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful opportunities but most of all friends for which I am ever grateful.