The Greatest Story Never Told

Public Art in Iowa

The State of Iowa has a rich art culture that includes many wonderful works of public art. These artworks may be commissioned by the state, by private organizations, or even by generous individuals, and can be found at airports, in hospitals, schools and universities, and even alongside highways! The Daily Palette is happy to feature these works created for the enrichment of our communities and the delight of our visitors.

The Greatest Story Never Told, Concrete, glass, metal, 2002

These columns, designed to look like soil core samples, are part of the installation, The Greatest Story Never Told, at the rest area near Adair, IA on I-80E. Each column, consisting of a sturdy concrete base covered in graceful root designs, is topped by a glass lantern that glows at night and is surrounded by a lovely wrought iron framework of cattails and reeds. The concrete base of each is labeled with a year, and then subsequent layers are marked "Silt," "Sand," "Loam," and "Clay," the main components of topsoil. The black bands separating the base from the lantern each note the depth of that precious material.

Commissioned by the Iowa Department of Transportation as part of the Art in State Buildings program, the whole installation pays homage to Henry Wallace, Iowa native and Secretary of Agriculture under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Vice President under the same. Wallace had the foresight to recognize that the aggressive single-crop farming that was so good for markets was terrible for farmland, and predicted the difficulties we now face with radically diminished topsoil levels. These columns illustrate the change in topsoil depth from 1850 to 2000, a decline from 14" to about 5.5", resulting in significant crop loss per acre. The rest of the art installed throughout the building tells the story of Wallace's life and the ideals he believed in.

Be sure to visit RDG Planning & Design's website, linked below, to see more images from this remarkable collection of artworks, ranging from these sculptures to terracotta plaques and gorgeous tile murals! And make sure to visit David Dahlquist's website, too, to learn more about one of Iowa's most imaginative artists and Creative Director at RDG Dahlquist Art Studio!

RDG Planning & Design website

David B. Dahlquist online

This page was first displayed
on April 25, 2017

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