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Christian Petersen: A Sense of Place in Campus Life

Christian Petersen Art Museum
Campbell Gallery
January 17–July 26, 2024

A sense of place has been described as the experiential and expressive ways places are known, imagined, yearned for, held, remembered and lived.

In 2007 I wrote about my experiences with encountering Petersen’s works of art around campus as a “faculty kid” growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.  The array of his sculpture around campus gives a special sense of place to me that I have not found on any other campuses I have visited.  I suspect others who have experienced the Iowa State campus as a student, alumni, or community resident may have a similar view.

From 1934 to 1955 Christian Petersen was artist-in-residence at Iowa State College (now University) and sculpted public and studio works of art for the College and its departments as well as teaching sculpture. Working with faculty, staff and students he conceived, sculpted and installed iconic works of art that expressed Iowa State’s land grant mission.

While many of Petersen’s sculptures are place specific around campus, this exhibition will rely on sketches, models, and concept drawings from the vast collections housed at the University Museums to figuratively bring these works of art into the Campbell Gallery at the Christian Petersen Art Museum. 

The selected models, sketches and drawings will bring to the museum representation of the permanently installed History of Dairying, Marriage Ring, Gentle Doctor, Veterinary Medicine Mural, Three Athletes, Conversations, Library Boy and Library Girl, Reclining Nudes, Fountain of the Four Seasons and the Agronomy Mural.  Except for the Four Seasons statues, the works of art will be arranged chronologically throughout the gallery.

A campus map with specific public works of art marked to orient visitors to their locations are available as well as copies to take away so the original works of art can be explored later.  Relevant sections of A Campus Beautiful (2015) are extracted to provide additional context and scholarship to the exhibit.

-Jerome Thompson, guest curator

Learn More


View texts and images associated with this exhibition including the introduction, curator's statement, background information and more.

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Christian Petersen Catalogue Raisonné

Newly published in 2024, the Christian Petersen Catalogue Raisonné is the first online/digital representation of the known body of Christian Petersen’s works of art, over 1,200 objects. Organized by years as well as by medium, and completely searchable, there are some themed areas of Petersen’s body of work to be explored. An updated chronology of Petersen’s life and past scholarly lectures are all available from this page.

View the Christian Petersen Catalogue Raisonné

This project is graciously funded by Joanne and Charles Frederiksen, Carole Horowitz and University Museums Membership. Many thanks to the scholars, interns, Museum staff and donors who have helped make this online catalogue and ongoing research into Petersen’s life and career possible.

Book Sale

In conjunction with the above exhibition, we have discounted several of our best scholarly publications on the unique art and aesthetics of Iowa State University's artist-in-residence, Christian Petersen.

Visit the Sale Page

Exhibition Programs

Find full descriptions of programs on the University Museums Calendar. All programs are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required. Click the event title for more information and/or to register. Events listed below will be at the Christian Petersen Art Museum, Campbell Gallery (1017 Morrill Hall, 603 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa) unless otherwise noted. Programs are subject to change. Check the University Museums Calendar and Facebook page for the latest events information.


Exhibition Tour
with Sydney Marshall

Thursday, January 25, 5:00–6:00 p.m.

Join Art on Campus curator Sydney Marshall as she highlights objects within the two exhibitions guest curated by Jerome Thompson. Explore how Christian Petersen’s works of art have transformed the visual legacy of ISU’s campus. Begins in the Campbell Gallery, 1017 Morrill Hall.


Reception & Curator's Talk
with Jerome Thompson

Sunday, February 4, 2:00–4:00 p.m.

Stroll through the galleries with guest curator Jerome Thompson for the opening reception of the Christian Petersen Art Museum’s spring exhibitions. Thompson’s talk will begin at 2:30 p.m.


Native American Cropping Practices, Pre-Contact to Today
with Derrick Kapayou

Thursday, March 7, 5:30–6:30 p.m.

Join Natural Resource Ecology and Management PhD candidate Derrick Kapayou for a conversation on the evolution of Native American agricultural traditions and delve into current research on the topic.


Art Walk | Christian Petersen's Footsteps
led by docent Dana Schumacher

Wednesday, March 27, noon–1:00 p.m.
Meet at University Library, Grant Wood mural

In partnership with Christian Petersen: A Sense of Place in Campus Life, take time to enjoy a selection of Christian Petersen’s public art around central campus. Meet docent Dana Schumacher at the Grant Wood murals/Library Boy and Girl inside the University Library. 


Christian Petersen in Context
with Dr. Lea Rosson DeLong

Sunday, April 21, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Curator Dr. Lea Rosson DeLong, noted scholar of Christian Petersen, will examine Petersen’s works of art on campus, placing them in context with his artist peers of the 1930s through the 1950s while also centering his sculptures and legacy in the greater art historical context of the 20th century.


Open House Weekend

Saturday & Sunday, April 27 & 28, 1:00–4:00 p.m.
Christian Petersen Art Museum & Farm House Museum

Having trouble getting to the museum during the week? Enjoy the University Museums’ central campus locations and spring exhibitions during an open house weekend.


Fountain of the Four Seasons | The Plan & Seed Planting

Sunday, May 5, noon–1:00 p.m.
Begins at Memorial Union north entrance

Learn the latest update on the conservation project surrounding the Fountain and then walk to Morrill Hall to take home a seed to plant in time for spring. Learn from guest curator Jerome Thompson about the impact of corn and agricultural practices on the creation of the Fountain’s design.


Preserving Christian Petersen’s History: New Research on the Artist’s Life and Work
with Allison Sheridan and Edie Hunter

Sunday, May 19, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Join Curator Allison Sheridan and Historian and Business Administrator Edie Hunter for a talk on the recent discoveries and research on Christian Petersen’s works of art, as well as his personal history. Through a newly unveiled Catalog Raissonné, deep dives into U.S. Census data and more, see a clearer vision of Christian Petersen, his art, and personal history.

Visit the Christian Petersen Art Museum

Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Closed Saturday & Sunday and University holidays & breaks
Click here to see when the museums are closed.

Address: 1017 Morrill Hall, 603 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa
Admission: The cost is free; however, there is a suggested donation of $8.

This exhibition is guest curated by Jerome Thompson and coordinated by University Museums, with support by Lorraine Bruns Estate, Carol & David Hawn, Beverly and Warren Madden, Rae Reilly, and University Museums Membership.


Detail of History of Dairying, 1934
Christian Petersen (Danish - American, 1885–1961)
Terra cotta
Commissioned by Iowa State College. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U88.64a-g

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