The Brunnier Art Museum, Christian Petersen Art Museum, Farm House Museum and the Elizabeth and Byron Anderson Sculpture Garden are affiliates of University Museums at Iowa State University. About eight to twelve annual changing exhibitions and permanent collection exhibitions provide educational opportunities for all ages. Lectures, receptions, conferences, university classes, panel discussions, gallery walks, and artist talks are presented to assist with further interpretation of objects. A full listing of programs and events is available by clicking here. Listed below are the current exhibitions with dates and location.

Brunnier Art Museum

Words, Symbols, and Modern Art
Jan. 14 through July 25, 2014

Words have long been found in art, often symbolic or pictographic, but representing a system of communication nonetheless. With time, the words or symbols themselves came to be viewed as artistic renderings in their own right. When one is not able to understand the language before them, they can separate themselves from the words and often appreciate the work for its pure artistic beauty or the skill needed to create such art. This exhibition will include examples of traditional Chinese calligraphy, the lettering and calligraphy of Father Catich, and the modern art of Ulfert Wilke and Barbara J. Bruene. The exhibition will explore how these works of art connect through their distinct uses of systems of communication, both to create visual representations of language that become art and also how words themselves can be abstracted to become the art.


Hot and Cool: Three Generations of Gaffers

hot cool


The studio art glass movement of the late 20th century stimulated a fresh interpretation of an ancient substance.  Fifty years and three generations later, the glass art movement has provided a stunning array of artistic creativity that transcends glass from utilitarian functions and mass production to a medium of expressive fine art.

The term studio glass refers to a singular, unique work of art created in a workshop in which usually one person, a gaffer, conceives of or directs assistants in the production of art.  Studio glass is the antithesis of industrial glass, which is mass produced according to rigidly controlled standards that maintains conformity.  The studio glass movement is one of the broader international craft movements that have flourished in the industrialized world since the 1960s. The premise of the craft movement, and more specifically the studio glass movement is clear, art is defined by its concept and content, and not its material.

Studio glass sculpture emerged in the early 1960s with the experimentation in hot glass by artistic pioneers Harvey K. Littleton (American, b. 1922) and Dominic Labino (American, 1910-1987). In 1962 gaffers Labino and Littleton led the groundbreaking Toledo Museum of Art glassblowing workshops. From there, Littleton went on to develop the prestigious glass program and curriculum at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Labino continued to influences the art of contemporary studio glass sculpture through experimentations with unique formulas, chemical mixtures and techniques.

In the 1970s, Dale Chihuly began to popularize the studio glass sculpture movement. After studying at U of W – Madison with Littleton, Chihuly established his own glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1971, he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in the Seattle, WA area. The Pilchuck Glass School and apprenticeship program opened the doors for such third generation glass artists as Paul Marioni, William Morris, Toots Zynsky, Sonja Blomdahl, Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace to succeed in the world of 20th and 21st century contemporary studio glass sculpture. Examples of Chihuly’s early glass sculptures and those of his students, Sonja Blomdahl, Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace, can be seen in the exhibition.

Today, the studio glass movement focuses on expanding the potential of the glass medium, creating new techniques and finishes, and experimenting with shape and texture. As the next generation of studio art glass sculptors position themselves in history, it is important to reflect on their predecessors who ultimately laid the groundwork for artistic experimentation in glass form and technique.

Iowa College Pottery

ISU Pottery

The history of art pottery at Iowa State began in 1920 with the hiring of Paul Cox (American, 1879-1968) as acting head of the Ceramic Engineering Department. Cox has previously spent eight years at Newcomb College in New Orleans as technical director of Newcomb Pottery. Cox eventually became the official head of ISU’s Ceramic Engineering Department in 1926. Initially Cox’s attention was focused on clearing and preparing the laboratories and work spaces, as well as securing new equipment. The then began traveling throughout Iowa as part of an extension program designed to educate the public about the area of ceramics and its importance to industry and home decoration. Because of Cox’s influence, the modeling of clay and the production of art pottery began to receive equal attention with the technical aspects of ceramics.

The Ceramic Engineering Department slowly gained popularity among students and faculty. Under Cox’s direction the student branch of the American Ceramic Society became involved with VEISHEA (the annual student celebration) and its traditions. The students prepared floats for the parade and also made hundreds of ceramic souvenirs to be sold or given away to campus visitors. One such souvenir, a ceramic tile featuring the iconic Campanile involved then sculptor-in-residence Christian Petersen, and can be seen in this exhibition.

In 1924 Cox hired Newcomb graduate Mary Lanier Yancey (American, 1902-1983) as an instructor in the Ceramic Engineering Department. Her position had two priorities: teaching pottery design and creating pottery for exhibiting throughout the state. Yancey’s Arts and Crafts style pottery was sold and the resulting funds were returned to the department to assist in funding its operations. Most of Yancey’s students were women majoring in Home Economics. The male students in the department worked the clay and prepared it for shaping. The women formed pots by hand or by using a kickwheel. The pots were then glazed and fired and taken home to admire.

Art pottery production at Iowa State ended in 1930 with both Cox and Yancey leaving the department. The “art” aspect of the Ceramic Engineering Department at Iowa State was terminated in 1939 when the emphasis went entirely to engineering and technical matters.

Visions Across America
Portraits of Iowa State Alumni by Jim Heemstra

April 3, 2014 through August 9, 2014

The Iowa State University Alumni Association and University Museums announce the upcoming spring 2014 exhibition for the Brunnier Art Museum VISIONS Across America: Portraits of Iowa State Alumni by Jim Heemstra. This free exhibition will open April 3 and run through August 9, 2014.

About the exhibition
From November 2011 to November 2013, Des Moines freelance photographer Jim Heemstra and VISIONS magazine editor Carole Gieseke traveled to all 50 states, meeting with more than 120 Iowa State University alumni for the VISIONS Across America project. This portrait exhibit is a culmination of this project.

When Heemstra and Gieseke set out on their two-year journey across the United States to produce ISU alumni stories and photographs for VISIONS magazine, they had no idea how emotionally tied they would become to those alumni – and how deeply they would be changed by the experience. From Ann Schexnyder in her New Orleans home that, six years after Hurricane Katrina, still had no hot water or electricity … to Ike Harris, a former CEO who now lives on the coast of Florida and allowed Jim to photograph him in a suit and tie walking barefoot in the sand … to Bob Gannon, a “world rounder” who flew his single-engine airplane around the world two-and-a-half times because he was curious about how other people lived – these are the people they encountered in their travels, and these are the people whose portraits  show the stunning diversity, strength, and character of Iowa State University alumni.

“One of the challenges of this VISIONS Across America portrait project was trying to show each person in a unique environment,” Heemstra said “I had to make the environment work to tell the story of where people live and what kind of lives they lead. I hope each person I photographed enjoyed the experience as much as I did.”

“The logistics of this project were sometimes overwhelming: connecting with people we’d never met in places we’d mostly never visited, not knowing what we’d find and if our ideas would work,” Gieseke said. “Sometimes we’d have a great idea all planned out only to scuttle it because the environment wasn’t what we expected. Sometimes we’d have a great idea only to arrive and immediately get a thousand-times-better idea. Sometimes magic happened, sometimes not. It’s just all part of the process.”

The exhibition includes 116 inkjet prints, both black and white and color. Some of the portraits are as large as six feet wide, and each is accompanied by a personal narrative.

About the artist
Jim Heemstra lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and has been a freelance photographer for more than 40 years. His work has been featured in VISIONS magazine since 1989, and he has been the sole photographer for the Iowa State University calendar since 1992.

The exhibition is organized by the ISU Alumni Association with participation of University Museums. Exhibition support is generously provided by Lora & Russ Talbot, Michele and Steve Whitty, Marcia and Steve Stahly, and ISU Printing Service.


Christian Petersen Art Museum

Illuminating Perception
Explorations of Light and Shadow by Mac Adams
Oct. 24, 2013 through August 1, 2014 (extended)

The art of Mac Adams uses photography, sculpture, and installations.

His sculpture The Moth is in the permanent Art on Campus Collection with its site specific installation outside Coover Hall and the Department of Computer Engineering.  The Moth is an organic form that interacts with the natural surroundings.  As the focal point of the sculpture, the image of the moth is created through the negative forms of three marble slabs.  The viewer has to find the optimum spatial position for the shape of a moth trapped in the square to visually form. The void of a moth is designed to respond to varying light conditions. Each of the three forms exist as independent structures and only connect when the viewer is in the optimum position.

The sculptures by Mac Adams play elaborate games with shadow and light.  The concept of parts converging to make a whole intrigues Adams, and through his sculpture he explores the idea of shadows as units or cells within a larger sculpture.  This exhibition combines the shadow sculpture of Mac Adams with additional explorations of light through photographic representations.  His art challenges our visual literacy as the presence of light among seemingly unrelated objects generates another layer to the visual message.  The juxtaposition of materials and direct light make the abstract appear concrete, thus challenging the viewer to look at the sculpture in many different ways. 

Mac Adams was born in 1943 in Brynmawr South Wales, Great Britain.  He attended Cardiff College of Art followed by Rutgers University where he received his MFA. He is now a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, New York. Mac Adams' international reputation has grown over the last 30 years. He has had over 60 solo exhibitions internationally. His art is in the collections of numerous institutions including Musee National d'art Modern, Center Pompidou, Paris, France, Microsoft Corporation, Harvard University, The Getty Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He has completed over 14 public art commissions in the U.S. and Europe, the most notable of these is the Korean War Memorial, 1991 located in Battery Park, New York City which was the first major Memorial dedicated to the Korean War in the United States.

Mac Adams is represented by Elizabeth Dee Gallery in New York City and GB Agency in Paris, France. His web site is macadamsstudio.com.

The art in the exhibition is on loan courtesy of the artist and the Elizabeth Dee Gallery N.Y.C., and is curated and organized by University Museums with support from the College of Engineering, Jim and Kathy Melsa, Al and Ann Jennings, Dirk and Cindy Scholten, the College of Design, and the University Museums Membership.


The People’s college: the Morrill Act and Iowa State
Located in Morrill Hall, Iowa State History Gallery



The comprehensive historic time-line will be installed on the walls of the ground floor hallway that leads through Morrill Hall.  The purpose of this installation is to provide an exciting and informative reference point to the history of Iowa State, featuring the institution's prominent role as the first land grant college to fully accept the provisions of the "Morrill Act" of 1862.

The time-line will be divided into various time periods focusing on the important and interesting events that played a part in the creation and development of the University from inception to modern day.  Each section will focus on a wide variety of events and the people that were innovators over the last 150 years in developing Iowa's only Land Grant College into the world class University it has become. 

Morrill Hall's central location and historic significance has made it a compelling and logical choice for the time-line installation.  Since reopening after its dramatic restoration in 2007, the University's second oldest structure has played host to an average of over 10,000 visitors annually and has become a starting point for many guided and self-guided tours.  Guided visitors are often told of Morrill Hall's history as chapel, library and museum, but many self-guided visitors come and go without the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the history of the building and University.  The goal of this current project is to both enhance the experience of the visitors to Iowa State's campus and to better educate those visitors of the unique and illustrious role the college and community has played in advancing education and fulfilling the dreams of Senator Justin Smith Morrill and President Abraham Lincoln as enshrined in the Morrill Act.

This exhibition is organized by the University Museums from the permanent collection, and funded by Ann and Al Jennings, Carole and Jack Horowitz, Mary Watkins, Dorothy Schweider, Iowa State Foundation and the Ames Community Grant Foundation – Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Commissioning a Collection: 75 Years of Public Art
Located in the Neva M. Petersen, Visual literacy and Learning Gallery, Morrill Hall           

Beauty and order inspire learning and good citizenship, according to Adonijah S. Welch, Iowa State’s first president (1868-1883).  He then began planning and planting the landscape of campus that today is internationally known for its beauty. In the 1930s, President Raymond M. Hughes (1927-1936) expanded this fundamental institutional value of the aesthetic campus and began collecting public art for educational and inspirational purposes for Iowa State students, and 75 years later ISU has the nation’s largest campus public art collection, the Art on Campus Collection with over 600 major public works of art located across campus.

Most of the Art on Campus Collection is site specific with each painting and sculpture uniquely conceived and created to reflect an academic value held precious to the departments and colleges of Iowa State. From Christian Petersen’s jersey cows sculpted in terra cotta in 1934 to Norie Sato’s chemically inspired elements glowing in LED light, each public artist began their creative process by conceiving and representing their subjects via models, drawings and maquettes which were shared with campus constituents prior to being created to full-scale.  This exhibition allows the viewer to experience the thrill of commissioning a new campus public work of art, and also challenges us to image these now iconic works of art before they became an integrated aesthetic object at Iowa State.  After viewing this exhibition viewers are invited to visit the final public works of art and further explore how the art evolved through the commissioning process.

Just as Presidents Welch and Hughes envisioned and President Gregory Geoffroy (2001-2012) supported by renovating Morrill Hall and founding the Christian Petersen Art Museum as a center for Art on Campus educational programs and collections, the Art on Campus Collection is a strategic educational for Iowa State students.  This collection is continually integrated in curriculum across campus and forms a core for the Visual Literacy and Learning Program. Through the practice of visual literacy-reading and understanding objects- all students improve critical thinking and communication skills.

This exhibition is organized by the University Museums from the Art on Campus Model and Maquette Collection.

Farm House Museum

CLOSED until January 11, 2015  


Anderson Sculpture Garden


Iowa State University is outstanding among American academic campuses for its abundance of public works of art. With the largest campus public art collection in the nation, Iowa State’s Art on Campus Program and Collection runs the gamut of artists, media, and styles. From realism to abstraction, murals to sculpture, and terrazzo to glass, the collection is vast and varied with a depth that has grown since the first public work of art was commissioned in 1933.

Follow Me on Pinterest