Honoring industry, first Willis Boulevard artwork raised Tuesday


A tribute to Perry’s industrial heritage was raised downtown Tuesday morning in the form of a sculpture by Des Moines artist John Brommel.

The 15-foot artwork, erected in the boulevard median on Willis Avenue at Second Street, figures a gear-driven ladle pouring molten metal. The aluminum sculpture — called “Born of Fire” — is partly a tribute to Dallas “Pete” VanKirk, longtime Perry patron and community supporter.

Jacqueline Riekena, left, whose storefront faces “Born of Fire,” the sculpture by John Brommel, right, welcomed the noted Des Moines artist to Perry Tuesday.

The work is the first of four planned by the Art on the Prairie committee. Other themed sculptures planned for the boulevard will honor Perry’s agricultural and railroading roots. One will memorialize Perry native and philanthropist Roberta Green Ahmanson.

With the help of a winch provided by Walton Tree Service and muscle provided by the Perry Public Works Department, the sculpture was placed on its base in the middle of Willis Avenue.

Brommel said LED lights will project from the base and sides of the artwork, simulating the appearance of liquid metal. Mike Lambert of KCL Engineering worked with Brommel on the project’s lighting.

Brommel has been commissioned for numerous large-scale works around Iowa. His Des Moines studio is located near North High School.

For reasons unknown, Jenny Eklund, president of the Art on the Prairie committee, tried to prevent ThePerryNews.com from taking Brommel’s picture alongside his artwork.

“Everyone is an artist,” Eklund said earlier on Facebook.

Other Art on the Prairie committee members are Vice President and Secretary Mary Nichols, Treasurer Sven Peterson, Technical Director Sally Farley and members Iris Coffin, Lisa Cooper, Carolyn Guay, Vicky Lage, Pete Malmberg, Mary Murphy, Steve Rose, Diane Schlegel, Heidi Segner, Judy Shirbroun, Pat Snyder and Monique van der Heijden.

Jacqueline Rose Riekena, whose commercial space on the northeast corner of Willis and Second opens onto the sculpture, was pleased with the addition.

“I’m thrilled that it is on my corner,” Riekena said, “and is programmed to several things. He has art in Des Moines. It is great!”

Virginia Barnhill, whose boulevard windows will overlook the new piece, said “Born of Fire” was not so much to her taste.

“To put it gently,” she said, “it isn’t what I’d call really good art. It looks like an oversized game piece on a Monopoly board.”

Barnhill will hopefully get used to the new artwork before the next ones are installed, maybe as soon as the November Art on the Prairie event.




  1. For someone to try to prevent ThePerryNews.com from taking a picture is the most ridiculous thing I have heard of. This is a free country. People can take pictures on public property any time they want. Her actions were completely uncalled for.

    • I agree 100 percent. He is the creator and should be credited for it. I personally want to see the artists next to their creations. During their Art on the Prairie, there are photos all over with the artists by their artwork. Why is this any different? That’s right, it isn’t! Way to ruin the moment, Jenny. In 50 years, it would be nice to see photos of WHO created this particular piece and the story behind it. SMH . . .


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