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April 27, 2001

Petersen sculpture tapped for Smithsonian

by Debra Gibson
Persistent campus art administrators who shucked the notion that a vintage Christian Petersen sculpture had gone to seed will soon celebrate that creation's new roots.

A bronze casting of Petersen's "Cornhusker" will be presented to the Smithsonian American Art Museum May 1, at an evening reception in the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Nearly 400 people are expected to attend, including Gregory Geoffroy, ISU's next president. The gift from the university and University Museums culminates ISU's ongoing campaign to gain national recog-nition for the late sculptor and his works.

For more than 20 years, museums director Lynette Pohlman has been championing the career of Christian Petersen, who worked for 21 years on the Iowa State campus as its (and the nation's) first college artist- in-residence. Under Pohlman's guidance, the museum staff tracked down and preserved Petersen's creations, which include 12 major public works of art, more than 500 studio sculptures and 700 drawings.

In their pursuit of his works, the museum staff learned of two sculptures created by Petersen in the early 1940s for the Hotel Sheldon Munn in Ames. After a lengthy search, the two works, "Cornhusker" and "4-H Calf," were discovered in storage at the Kirkwood Hotel in Des Moines. The Kirkwood owners then donated the pieces to ISU.

"Cornhusker" emanated from sketches Petersen drew of Marion Link, a young Story County farmer, as he won a local cornhusking competition. (Link, now deceased, will be represented by several relatives at the D.C. reception.)

Once "Cornhusker" was chosen by the Smithsonian, two bronze castings were created in its likeness. One casting will be presented to the Smithsonian, where it will be placed in storage until the museum's renovation is completed, probably in 2004. The other will remain in ISU's permanent Petersen collection.

Local residents can celebrate the success of "Cornhusker" at a free reception at the Brunnier Art Museum on Sunday, April 29, beginning at 1 p.m. ISU's bronze casting of the sculpture will be on display through Aug. 11.

Marion Link    "Cornhusker"

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