Dean's gallery: A new kind of art exhibition


The Dean's Art Gallery in 130 Curtiss features agriculture-themed pieces from the university's Art on Campus collection. Photo by Bob Elbert.

University Museums' newest campus gallery is – at first glance – in an unlikely location: the outer hall of the dean's suite in Curtiss Hall. The Dean's Art Gallery (PDF) features seven Christian Petersen sculptures, a four-piece pastel drawing sequence by Iowa artist Ellen Wagener and judging trophies awarded to Iowa State student teams near the turn of the 20th century. They share an agricultural theme and many of them reflect agriculture's dependence on the seasons.

Dean's Art Gallery

Christian Petersen sculptures

  • George Washington Carver, 1949
  • Plaster models for the Fountain of the Four Seasons, 1940
  • Cowboy, Cutting Horses and Two Polled Hereford Heifers, 1953-54
  • 4-H Calf, 1941

Ellen Wagener pastel drawings, 2006

  • Spring, Cyclone
  • Summer, Thunderstorm
  • Fall, Cumulus
  • Winter, Blizzard

Judging trophies

  • A.E. Cook Trophy, 1900
  • International Livestock Exhibition Award, 1900

"What are Christian Petersen's four maidens [from Fountain of the Four Seasons] worth to this university? Priceless. What good are they sitting in a storeroom?" said University Museums director Lynette Pohlman. "Our goal is to place art in the public realm."

Pohlman credits College of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean Wendy Wintersteen for the exhibition.

"She's been thinking about art and agriculture for decades," Pohlman said. A chance conversation in that hallway between the two women created a quick partnership, and Pohlman followed up with a proposal for the space. She said nearly half of the 2,000-plus pieces in the university's Art on Campus collection are related in some way to agriculture.

"The gallery has transformed this space," said Wintersteen, who also provided the introduction statement for the exhibition. "Previously, it was a corridor cluttered with cubicles, dividers and filing cabinets that made it a maze to reach offices or a heavily used conference room.

"It wasn't the optimal kind of welcome you'd wish to provide to state, national and international leaders who visit one of the nation's foremost agricultural colleges. It also didn't send the right kind of message to prospective students and parents visiting Curtiss Hall," she said. "Now the Dean's Art Gallery provides that warm welcome for visitors and students, and provides usable space for small receptions and informal gatherings."

The dean's gallery in Curtiss Hall is a five- to 10-year exhibition, Pohlman said. Her staff may refresh it periodically, particularly since the university owns so many agriculture-related pieces of art.

Pohlman said she hopes to do more small galleries on campus in the future. Space, lighting, security and environmental (temperature, humidity) requirements make them "not inexpensive" exhibitions to assemble, she noted.

"We try to place as many pieces as we can around campus," Pohlman said. "We love to get things out of storage. We know they inspire learning."