Art On Campus

Iowa State University is home to one of the largest campus public art programs in the United States.  Over 2,000 works of public art, including 600 by significant national and international artists, are located across campus in buildings, courtyards, open spaces and offices.

The traditional public art program began during the Depression in the 1930s when Iowa State College’s President Hughes envisioned that "the arts would enrich and provide substantial intellectual exploration into our college curricula." Hughes invited Grant Wood to create the Library’s agricultural murals that speak to the founding of Iowa and Iowa State College and Model Farm. [See Lost & Found Art.] He also offered Christian Petersen a one-semester sculptor residency to design and build the fountain and bas relief at the Dairy Industry Building. In 1955, 21 years later, Petersen retired having created 12 major sculptures for the campus, and hundreds of small studio sculptures.

In the beginning, public art traditions on campus were informally established, and have become more formalized recently. Through these transitions, there are several significant traditions that have been ongoing:

The years 1955 through 1979 were lean years for public art at Iowa State and across the country.  In 1979, Iowa passed the Iowa Art in State Buildings legislation, which requires .5 percent of new construction or remodeling funds to be used to acquire public art.  Since 1979, Iowa State has completed numerous Art in State Buildings projects, commissioned or acquired over 600 works of public art, and involved over 800 faculty, students and staff in the commissioning process.

Learn more about the Art on Campus Collection from a student’s perspective.  Check the monthly blog entries to find out more about some of our interns’ favorite works of art. Student's Journey Through Art on Campus

To see more images or receive further information on the Art on Campus Collection, click here or contact the University Museums office at 515-294-3342.

Hours, Tours, and Admission


The Art on Campus collection is free and available to the public for viewing 24 hours a day, year round (some restrictions apply to art located inside buildings). To arrange a private tour, please download the University Museums Tour Request Form Word and submit or email to Dave Faux dafaux@iastate.edu

Map of Selections of the Art on Campus Collection

Online interactive map

Map of Art on Campus (2014)

New Installations and Recent Projects

A Public Perception by Terry Allen, 2011-2012

Learn about the newest conservation project - Silver Code - the C.Y. Stephens Auditorium Art Curtain.

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