It might seem like a well-kept secret but with more than 2,000 works, Iowa State University has the largest campus public art collection in the nation. This impressive and continually growing collection is a perennial attraction for Ames, but ISU’s campus public art also has a few connections to Perry that might come as a surprise even to Perry residents.
One way to begin to experience ISU’s massive collection is by participating in the university’s monthly art walks, which are free and open to the public.
The March Art Walk, for instance, was called, “A Celebration of Art in State Buildings,” and it commemorates the Iowa legislature’s 1978 passage of the Art in State Buildings law. The law required one-half of one percent of all new construction or remodeling funds to be used to acquire public art.
The April Art Walk, “A Celebration of the Artist Priscilla Sage,” will allow participants to view and discuss Sage’s contributions to the ISU Art on Campus Collection. As Sage says on her ISU webpage, “My sculptures are lightweight, designed to move in air currents so the colors make that sensuous slide from convex to concave or turn from a cool exterior to a rich vibrant interior.”
Patrons of the Perry Public Library are already familiar with Sage’s fiber sculpture, “Golden Rhapsody,” which hangs near the south wall of the library.
To take part in the ISU’s April Art Walk, meet Sage at the north entrance of the Jischke Honors Building at noon on April 8. (Click for campus map.)
In addition to the Art on Campus Program, which has art located in buildings, courtyards and common spaces across the ISU campus, University Museums also includes the Anderson Sculpture Garden, Farm House Museum, Christian Petersen Art Museum and Brunnier Art Museum.
One of the current exhibits at the Brunnier Art Museum has a connection to Perry through artist Ellen Wagener. An exhibition of Wagener’s work will be on display through July 31 at Brunnier, entitled “Ever Changing Land: The Art of Ellen Wagener.”
According to the Brunnier website, “Wagener’s landscapes display a great reverence for nature and a passion for the rural lifestyle that is quickly disappearing throughout many of the Midwestern states.” Her paintings “encompass all that is stunning about the Iowa landscape, from the subtle colorations of the field to the immense sky with its ever changing cloud formations.”
Wagener’s landscapes are indeed stunning. “Landscape Suite in Three Movements” may be enjoyed in Perry in the Canisteo Room at the Hotel Pattee.
Brunnier Art Museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday 1-4 p.m. It is located in the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center.
Doug Shelton’s mural “Unlimited Possibilities” in the Parks Library can distract people from their studies and entice them to try to find all 32 cyclones incorporated into the work.
Shelton’s mural “A Perry Album” greets visitors at the entrance of the Carnegie Library Museum. A full interpretation of the mural is available at the Carnegie.
His Hotel Pattee murals, “The Hiawatha,” found in David’s Milwaukee Diner, and “The Spirit of Perry,” seen in the Spring Valley Ballroom, are two of the jewels in the Pattee Hotel’s crown.
Once you’ve started counting cyclones in “Unlimited Possibilities,” you might even start to see them–whether real or imaginary–in his Perry murals.
It would be pretty difficult to be in Perry for almost any reason and miss Albert Paley’s “Reconfiguration” arches that grace each end of Soumas Court. Known for his gateways, arches and portals, Paley touched the ISU campus with his work. His “Transformation” at the entrance to Morrill Hall creates a unique portal to learning.
Both the Perry and ISU pieces are large, eye-catching silver expanses, but the ISU piece is not found art like the arches of Soumas Court.
The exhibit currently installed in the Christian Petersen Art Museum within Morrill Hall may make Albert’s entrance seem more like a portal to another world than merely a portal to learning. The main work within the museum is “Coherence,” an immersive laser Installation by Dan Corson. It is a mesmerizing exhibit.
“Corson’s artwork,” according to the Petersen Art Museum website, “blurs the boundaries of art, theatrical design, architecture, landscape architecture and sometimes even magic.”
The installation hangs from the ceiling and runs through 25 different laser patterns. There are mirrors on the floor and as long as you put museum-supplied booties over your shoes or remove your shoes, you may walk onto the mirrors.
Knowledgeable staff are eager to inform you about the installation and the artist and will also invite you to lie on your back on the mirrors and look to the ceiling. Chairs are also provided along the wall for those wishing to observe at length but not inclined to lie on the floor.
This exhibition will run through May 29 at the Christian Petersen Art Museum, 1017 Morrill Hall. The museum is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Once you enter Soumas Court under one of the Paley arches, leaves of English ivy and white oak create a walking path through the court, and portrait tiles hang on the Wall of Witnesses honoring people of Perry. This court and the tiles were designed by Des Moines artist David Dahlquist.
The RDG Dahlquist Art Studio, working with an architectural firm, also restored many elements of the terra cotta hotel facade.
Dahlquist’s artwork at ISU includes 14 tiles outside the Alumni Center, depicting ISU traditions, and a series of lighted columns at Jacobson Plaza at Jack Trice Stadium.
These five Perry-ISU connections are just a sampling of the art experiences available to everyone who lives or passes through Perry. If some of the works resonate with you, schedule a day-trip to ISU in Ames to experience more of their works along with those of other artists.
And while you’re in Ames, if you see someone admiring a piece of art that has a Perry connection— invite that person to Perry.
For more information on ISU’s campus public art collection, visit the University Museum website.