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Ceramic vessels are important part of the permanent collection

Posted on April 28, 2020 at 9:30 PM by Adrienne Gennett

Did you know that University Museums has always collected Iowa artists? One of the most recent additions to the Iowa artists collection is a group of pottery by the important Iowa potter, Dean Schwarz.

In 2018, University Museums was generously gifted fourteen ceramic vessels by the artist Dean Schwarz and his wife Geraldine. As one the best known and most important Iowa potters, this collection was a key addition to the Museums’ ever-growing Iowa artists collection. Since University Museums early days, 45 years ago, works of art made by Iowa artists have been a core collecting area as it is important that the collection represents and reflects the artistic vitality found within the state.

Received right before beginning the renovation project at the Brunnier Art Museum, the new acquisitions had to stay safe in storage. When it was time to reopen, I took that opportunity to exhibit some new acquisitions, specifically in Iowa and contemporary pottery, with a highlight on all of the new Dean Schwarz ceramics. Along with his gift, the exhibition includes the one bowl we had prior to 2018, donated by Nancy Polster (former College of Design faculty) in 2015, along with two more objects received before the reopening from one of our docents and collectors, Rae Reilly, and a monumental vessel from ISU alumni Rudy Hermann and his wife, Deborah. These eighteen examples of Schwarz’s pottery range from a tiny finger-sized vase to several large-scale floor vessels and date from the last 20 years of his production, much of that done in conjunction with his two sons, Gunnar and Lane.

Dean Schwarz was born in Cedar Rapids, IA in 1938 and attended the Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, attaining both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there. In 1964, he began to study with Marguerite Wildenhain, a Bauhaus trained ceramicist who had worked with others to create an artist colony and summer school in Guerneville, CA called Pond Farm. By 1960, she was teaching the summer sessions on her own and was known for being a demanding instructor, believing that the process of creation must be all-consuming. Schwarz would continue to study with her for many years as he built his own career. He taught art at Luther College from 1964 to 1986, mentoring many young students in ceramics and art throughout the years. He opened up his own summer intensive school and arts colony, South Bear School, in Decorah, IA in 1970. Throughout his career he has also traveled widely including a Fulbright Scholarship to South Korea and research in countries including Japan and Panama. The large vase included in the exhibition, donated by Rudy and Deborah Herrmann, examines a trip to Africa that Schwarz had taken as his many travels and experiences found their way into the decoration of his pottery. Often those decorations tell a story, sometimes only known by Schwarz, sometimes revealed by the unique titles he used, and always exhibit his sense of humor, interest of history, and keen sense of the human condition. 

University Museums could not exist without donors like Dean and Geraldine Schwarz, Nancy Polster, Rae Reilly, and Rudy and Deborah Herrmann. Their generosity and thoughtful gifts of art are what allow University Museums to continue to educate and enhance the lives of students during their experience at Iowa State.

Learn more about artist Dean Schwarz.


LEFT: Rain on the Barn, 2000, Dean Schwarz (American, b.1938). Gunnar Schwarz (American) Stoneware. Gift of Geraldine and Dean Schwarz. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2018.169

RIGHT: Cliffs Along the Upper Iowa River, 2013, Dean Schwarz (American, b.1938). Gunnar Schwarz (American) Stoneware. Gift of Geraldine and Dean Schwarz. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2018.166

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