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University Museums comes to central campus

Posted on 06/14/2020 at 06:00 PM by Betsy Grabinski




Officially opening in 2007, the Christian Petersen Art Museum was added to the University Museums family to continue building on Iowa State’s long tradition of visual and public arts. With its central campus location in Morrill Hall, the space is dedicated to student learning as well as being a home to the Christian Petersen Art Collection and the Art on Campus collection.

The museum was named for the nation’s first permanent campus artist-in-residence, Christian Petersen, who sculpted at Iowa State from 1934 through 1955, and is considered the founding artist of the Art on Campus Collection. Petersen was on the Iowa State faculty from 1937 through 1955.

The Christian Petersen Art Museum is a natural fit for the historic Morrill Hall. Petersen once said, “The man who sets him-self apart and then calls himself an artist frustrates himself.  He must first learn to love people – to think with them – before he can begin to create a work of art.”  It is through this love of people that the true legacy of Petersen begins.  



The Christian Petersen Art Museum is comprised of two galleries along with collections storage and a small conservation/object/exhibition preparation area. The gallery on the first floor, the Lyle and Nancy Campbell Art Gallery, hosts a rotating schedule of exhibitions that includes contemporary art, public art, and exhibitions that engage a diverse group of departments across campus.In addition, the space can be open to the Textiles and Clothing Museum for a joint exhibition like the 2018-2019 Designed for a Modern Life: Decorative Arts & Fashion in the Mid-Century.

IMAGE: Designed for a Modern Life: Decorative Arts & Fashion in the Mid-Century exhibition (2018-2019)

The ground floor gallery, the Roy and Bobbi Reiman Public Art Studio Gallery, is the space for the reACT Exhibition Series, which are guest curated exhibitions that focus on current events relevant to the University community. This space has also been used for a short-term artist-in-residence studio.

In addition to the gallery spaces, the Christian Petersen Art Collection is housed in the non-public area of the museum. This collection includes hundreds of drawings, sculptures, maquettes, medals, bas reliefs, paintings, and some of his artist tools. The collection continues to grow with new acquisitions. View the full collection on our eMuseum.

Christian Petersen was a beloved faculty member at Iowa State. He not only taught sculpting, but also took time to discuss world events, religion and the human condition as depicted in works of art. He left an artistic legacy important not only to Iowans, but to the American Regionalist art movement. It is befitting that a campus art museum, based upon tradition, a place for gathering, learning and teaching at the pulse of Iowa State University, carry Petersen’s name and public art legacy.



IMAGES Previous exhibitions at the Christian Petersen Art Museum.

TOP LEFT: Morrill Act of July 2, 1862: Land Grant and the People’s College (March 22-April 27, 2008)
TOP RIGHT: Manual Neri: Ambiguity, Mystery and Allure (January 8 – May 18, 2018)
BOTTOM LEFT: Christian Petersen: Urban Artist, 1900-1933 (March 22 – August 8, 2007)
BOTTOM RIGHT: #WomenKnowStuffToo: A Celebration of Women’s Expertise in the Arts; Part of the reACT Exhibition Series (March 2020)

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