The small Iowa town I grew up in had not one piece of public art. And still doesn’t, unless you count the town square’s small granite memorial dedicated to Veterans, and a black and white fiberglass porker standing proud on the rim of town. It’s refreshing to go back for reunions and not have public art in my sight-lines. I doubt if any local folks (population 1,000 and shrinking) have ever thought about the possibility of art that is “public.” Omaha, the home of Warren Buffet, is only 70 miles west, so if they should absolutely have to experience art, I guess that’s where they’d head.
Image: Public Sculpture Winter 08
On the route west, there are plenty of stately silos to consider. Stanton, Iowa is only minutes away as the crow reckons, and they do have what I guess is a form of public sculpture: a huge elaborately painted coffee cup mounted on their water tower. Being entirely populated by Swedes who all dwell in small white houses, the town appreciates a good cup of java.
Prior to the coffee cup water tower, they had a coffee pot water tower to honor one of their hometown products, Virginia Christine, a.k.a. “Mrs. Olson,” the kindly Swedish lady who became a spokesperson on teevee for Folger’s coffee. When the pot ceased functioning, the good folks shifted gears and went with the cup motif, likely because they didn’t have anyone other than Swedes to consider.
When the “Blue Shirt” sculpture proposed for Mitchell International was hung out to dry a few years ago, Milwaukee reached a new low in art appreciation. Our County Executive, Scott Walker, led the charge against the work, along with other misinformed persons who claimed to “know what art is.” Is it worth noting that Walker spent his formative years in Fairfield, Iowa?