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Spreading love through art

Alum Claudia Cole Meek captures Simpson Sweetheart spirit through Valentine's Day cards


For the past 32 years, Simpson Sweethearts have looked forward to receiving a Valentine’s Day card from Simpson College. The cards are sent to more than 1,400 alumni sweetheart couples whose relationship began beneath the whispering maples.

Since 2015, Claudia Cole Meek ’77 has made the greeting cards extra special. That was the first year the greeting card cover showcased artwork from Meek's “Simpson Love” series. 

The series honors the rich traditions of the College and those unique aspects that make it so special. Meek works closely with the Office of Alumni Relations to produce the art. “Simpson Love” consists of five pieces in all, the most recent of which depicts the winds of a crisp fall day on the Indianola campus.

Simpson Sweethearts painting by Claudia Cole Meek
The 2022 "Simpson Love" painting by Claudia Cole Meek ’77 depicts the winds of a crisp fall day on the Indianola campus. The painting is featured on the cover of the Simpson Sweetheart Valentine's Day card.

“Each piece seeks to highlight something of Simpson College that Simpson Sweethearts would remember during their time,” Meek said. 

Meek artfully weaves subtle nods to the College in each painting. In 2020, for example, the Ghost of College Hall swirled out of the bell tower atop the iconic campus building. Each piece also includes images of Easter eggs and lyrics written by The Beatles.

An Indianola-based artist, Meek has deep family ties to Simpson. 

Her third great grandfather, John W. Bundy, was a founder of the College. Meek's mother, LuJean Cole, was the first director of the Brenton Student Center in 1967 and later served as alumni director. And her brother, King Richard Cole, attended Simpson with her in the 1970s. 

Each piece goes through roughly five drafts, a process that takes about five weeks. The work is rewarding for Meek, who said being an artist isn’t a choice.

“The gift of birth compels one to create.”