Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Feb. 9, 1996

ISU to commission new mural for state sesquicentennial

by Steve Sullivan

Grant Wood's famous murals at Iowa State are getting some company.

To commemorate Iowa's sesquicentennial, ISU officials will commission a nationally recognized artist to create a new mural for the campus. As with the Wood murals, faculty and students will be involved in creating the new mural.

"The Wood murals in Parks Library are national treasures and widely recognized symbols for Iowa State and its heritage as a land-grant institution," said Murray Blackwelder, interim vice president for external affairs. "The new mural also will celebrate Iowa State's past, as well as a vision for ISU's future as the premier land-grant university in the country."

Several artists have expressed interest and submitted resumes and portfolios, said Lynette Pohlman, University Museums director. A budget of $35,000 has been set, part of which will come from The Fisher Representative Systems Endowment to fund the hiring of an artist.

The vision that will be depicted in the mural will be determined by an art review committee made up of the visiting artist; art and design faculty Brenda Jones and Donna Friedman; and selected university and community representatives. People interested in serving on the committee should write to Murray Blackwelder, vice president for external affairs, 209 Beardshear by Monday, Feb. 19. The committee and the visiting artist will be selected this month, Pohlman said.

A second committee, made up of the visiting artist, Jones, Friedman and student painters, also will be chosen to actually complete the mural. Plans call for the mural concept to be developed over March, April and June, and the mural to be completed in November. The mural may tour the state for several months as part of the sesquicentennial celebration before being installed at a site to be announced later.

"This is a fast-track project, but based on the enthusiasm the project has already met with, we are confident we can have a world-class mural completed on schedule," Pohlman said.

Wood was director of the federal Public Works of Art Project for Iowa in the 1930s. In 1933-34, ISU President Raymond Hughes commissioned Wood to do the eight murals in the library's main stairwell to depict the university's agricultural beginnings and the divisions of Iowa State College. Wood drew the murals and developed the color scheme. The actual painting was done by 14 young artists who received university credit for their work.

Wood later designed "Breaking the Prairie Sod," a mural located in the library's lower lobby. It depicts the founding of the state by pioneers in the 1840s; the technological advancements of agriculture; and the uncertain future that faced the nation in the late 1930s. It was painted by seven art students and installed in 1937.

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