A graduate of the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE with majors in speech and communications, Olsen had no formal art training. He found many of his first brushes discarded by sign painters at Frank Hardie Advertising Inc. where he worked as a janitor during college. In the 1970s, the Dubuque Star Brewery Building was purchased by a Chicago brewmaster, Joseph PICKETT, Sr. Olsen was a radio announcer at KDTH when he got a call from Val Pickett, Joe’s son. This launched Olsen's career as a graphic artist. (1)
Olsen joined the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT as its Director of Web Development and Public Affairs after a successful career in corporate communications. At the JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS, he produced the award winning company publication, Tracks. (2) Olsen worked in advertising and multimedia design for Frank Hardie Advertising and then for government contractor NCS (now NCS Pearson), helping federal and state government agencies design and build websites. Beginning in 2000 working in education, Gary programmed and managed a completely automated Cable Television Channel, Mediacom 19, which played in the greater Dubuque Tri-State market.
Olsen won many awards for film making, documentary work, and graphic arts. Kids in the Kitchen, won the cable television industry's most prestigious award, the Beacon, for best series television show in its first year on the air. (3) The show was unique because the kids cooked on the show with nutritional ingredients they purchased in the store with the chef. In January 2008, Olsen and his cast for Kids in the Kitchen were producing their third season in the new kitchen set constructed in 2007 by Hy-Vee, the host sponsor of the show. The kitchen was a state-of-the art instructional cooking facility built to Olsen’s specifications. For two consecutive years, 2006 and 2007, Olsen was named among the top 41 best cable content providers in America by Cable Leaders in Learning, the cable industry's educational advocacy group based in Washington, DC. He is the official filmmaker for That's My Dog! training facilities. (4)
In 2000 Olsen received the Silver Medal Award from the Dubuque chapter of the American Advertising Federation. (6) He was designated a "Cable Leader in Learning" in May, 2009 by Cable in the Classroom, a foundation funded by the cable industry which puts technology in the hands of teachers to improve learning. Gary received the award for his work on "The Garden Organic," a cable show he created with Dubuque Community Schools and Mediacom Cable. (7) The show chronicled the adventures of children as they grew their own food and prepared dishes right in the garden. "It narrows the intellectual gap between what grows from the earth and what ends up on their plates," explained Olsen. In addition to a $3,000 prize, he received an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. where he was honored.MARIA HOUSE shelter in Dubuque. (8) LORAS COLLEGE. His work has been featured in one-person exhibitions at Central College and Buena Vista College and has been included in the Iowa Artists Exhibition at the Des Moines Art Center. (9)
Only a few of Olsen's works have been reproduced as limited edition prints. An edition typically numbers 500 signed and numbered pieces. He has prepared special remarque drawings and small painted vignettes on some prints. (10)
1. Facebook entry. December 10, 2014
2. "Deere Makes Tracks," InfoWorld, September 14, 1987, Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=sTsEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=Gary+Olsen+%28dubuque%29&source=bl&ots=ZCIKCasPTB&sig=hNSWCZm3t0QtGmPv1u51c8hOGvI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zuqEVPjtFIv5yATl6YKQBQ&ved=0CEQQ6AEwBzgU#v=onepage&q=Gary%20Olsen%20%28dubuque%29&f=false
3. "Gary Olsen's Studio," Online: http://www.garyolsen.com/news.html
5. "The Welcome Sign Project," The Rotary Club of Dubuque, Online: http://www.dubuquerotary.org/projects.cfm?projname=welcome
6. "Silver Medal Award." American Advertising Federation, Online: https://www.aafdubuque.com/en/american_advertising_awards/silver_medal_award/
7. "Gary Olsen's Studio."
8. Parks, Bryce. "Gary Olsen: There Are Places I Remember," Dubuque365, September 30, 2014, Online: http://dubuque365.com/ArticleDetailsPage/tabid/65/ArticleID/733/Gary-Olsen-There-Are-Places-I-Remember.aspx
9. "Gary Olsen," Olson-Larson Galleries. Online: http://www.olsonlarsen.com/en/artists/?albumID=3767&action=dspalbum
10. "Gary Olsen," Creative Touch Gallery, Online: http://www.creativetouchgallery.com/olsen.html