"I am the Director of Iowa Contemporary Art (ICON) and Bill Teeple Fine Art, in Fairfield. I have been serious about making art for 50 years, with a degree in art from the University of California at Berkeley. I have taught art in Fairfield for the past 15 years."
In the ’70s, Bill and his artist partner Lynn Durham were living in California. Their fantasy/fairy art cards and calendars (published by Green Tiger Press) were selling nationwide. Simultaneously, Doug Henning’s World of Magic had commissioned poster-art from the pair for his stage shows. A decade of ‘ka-ching’ followed. But Bill “wanted to see what it was like to not make money selling art.” I asked him to explain.
During a thoughtful hiatus from the commercial art world and trips in and out of Fairfield, Bill did “what I wanted to do, producing miniature graphite drawings and growing heirloom vegetables. I gardened as a way to integrate the utilitarian and the aesthetic in my life as an artist. Once I made the decision to be myself, I got so much support.”
Bill also taught painting to MFA students. He eventually acquired a private studio space and, with the support of artist Lynn Marshall, students to teach. “There wasn’t a serious contemporary art program here (outside of campus) and I wanted to share the work of local artists like Bob Horlein, Gillian Brown, and the Cains, so I began to hang contemporary art in the space.” In November 2001, he and wife Janet Teeple. a top-notch graphic artist, opened Gallery 51 East. “Janet made fancy dinners for openings and it began to be a thing. Half the people came to eat,” Bill laughs. Together, they created a permanent niche in the community.
As the gallery’s reputation grew, Bill, artist Stacey Hurlin, and others organized a ‘studio crawl’ that was hugely successful. In 2002, it became Fairfield 1st Fridays Art Walk, anchoring the reputation of the arts in our community. Eventually, Gallery 51 East reorganized as the non-profit ICON and moved to its current location on the square in downtown Fairfield.
As ICON flourished, Bill’s reputation as a teacher grew. ICON Thursdays and ICON Radio are ‘musts’ for anyone interested in exploring fine art. Private or group art classes are always available at ICON. Bill’s passion and thoughtful guidance come through as he explains that, “I don’t teach how to be a beginner your whole life. But from day one, I introduce advanced techniques. I don’t want my students painting a formula painting. Each student is unique in this world, and the reason we need your painting is to say who you are. Anyone can learn the language of painting, but just learning a language doesn’t make a poet,” he continues, “I encourage students to explore what they love, what they have strong feelings about. I want to know about that.”