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An introduction to #CampusBeautiful

Posted on October 23, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Betsy Grabinski

I’ve been with University Museums for just over two years. When I interviewed for the position, Collections Manager Allison Sheridan gave me a driving tour around campus to view some of the public art, which I would later come to know as the Art on Campus Collection. I didn’t attend Iowa State, so this was my first viewing of the #CampusBeautiful and I was in awe of just how much art there was to see. 

Towards the middle of the tour, we made a brief stop at Morrill Hall, right in front of Transformation, by Albert Paley. I got excited because I instantly thought “there’s a story to this!” with its very modern, steel abstract structure on the front of a century-old classic brick building.

Here’s what I learned…
Morrill Hall was built in 1890 and was originally home to the college’s chapel, library and a natural history museum. It served many purposes over the years – transforming from a gymnasium to laboratories, choral hall to photo services, there was even a barber shop in the basement at one point, and of course, classrooms. In the early 2000s and over 100 years of use, the building had fallen in to disrepair; there was discussion of demolishing for a new building or restore it. After a grass roots campaign with much of the renovation cost coming from private donors, the newly refurbished Morrill Hall reopened in 2007 – its latest transformation includes the Christian Petersen Art Museum, the Textiles and Clothing Museum, an auditorium and classrooms, and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). 

Transformationis made up of fragmented pieces of fabricated steel that create a unique and beautiful portal. Designed specifically for Morrill Hall, Transformation connects the old and the new; the past and future of Morrill Hall and Iowa State University. When looking at the sculpture one is reminded of the constant transformations that Morrill Hall has undergone in its lifetime, as well as the transformations that each person undertakes when entering into Iowa State University.”   From University Museums collections database, 2007        

Storytelling is much of what I do at University Museums. With 35,000 objects in our collections, that’s thousands of stories, just like this one, waiting to be told. 

More about the history of Morrill Hall

More about artist Albert Paley

IMAGES: Transformation, 2007 by Albert Paley. Located at the front entrance to Morrill Hall. The sculpture commission was funded by the Class of 1956, Iowa State University; Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for Morrill Hall; University Museums, Iowa State University; Rebecca Klemm; Martha LeBuhn Allen; the National Endowment for the Arts, and Ruth and Clayton Swenson.In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2007.70

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