Christian Petersen Art Museum

Christian Petersen is remembered today as a great sculptor, but during his days at Iowa State, it was his teaching that made students flock to his classes.

"He never belittled or embarrassed anyone, no matter how clumsy they were with a lump of clay. He made each of us feel special," one of his students wrote about 20 years after Petersen's death in 1961.

Petersen's legacy

Christian Petersen at

Petersen was the nation's first campus artist-in-residence, coming to Iowa State during the Depression to participate in a federally funded Public Works of Art Project and staying on to sculpt and teach until 1955.

While at Iowa State, he created more than 12 major public sculptures and hundreds of studio sculptures. Among his most known campus works of art are the Fountain of Four Seasons on the north side of the Memorial Union and the Gentle Doctor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

It was Petersen's art that firmly established the university's practice of collecting public works of art. That legacy continues today with the Art on Campus Program. Iowa State has the largest public art collection at any college or university in the nation with more than 400 major works of art.

It is fitting that Petersen's legacy of public art and teaching will be continued in a museum slated for Morrill Hall, once the hall has been renovated. The Christian Petersen Art Museum will be home to both the Christian Petersen Collection, consisting of more than 700 works of art, and the Art on Campus Program that focuses on acquiring new works of art, education, and conservation.

The museum

The Christian Petersen Art Museum will comprise two exhibition gallery spaces. One can be used daily as a high-tech visual learning theater as well as gallery space. The second space will house contemporary exhibitions and also can be periodically converted into a studio for visiting public artists.

"In addition to the Christian Petersen Collection, the new museum will host exhibitions by contemporary artists who explore current issues and invoke contemplation just as Petersen once did," said Lynette Pohlman, University Museums director.

The university community also will have the opportunity to watch as public artists create new works of art for the campus.

"Petersen always had his studio door open while he was working. Students were able to watch him create these campus icons, and we want to create a similar environment for today's students," Pohlman noted.

Faculty and staff teaching regular course work in the museum facilities will be able to employ visual learning techniques to aid in instruction. The museum also will serve as a social gathering place for students for informal learning.

More information

For more information about the Christian Petersen Art Museum, contact Lynette Pohlman, University Museums, 290 Scheman Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1112; (515) 294-3342; e-mail

The University Museums homepage includes information about the Brunnier Art Museum, the Farm House Museum and the Art on Campus Program.