Fort Dodge features variety of public art

Sculptures, murals and paintings grace the city's landscape

-Messenger photos by Kriss Nelson
Axiom is located near the Biosciences Building at Iowa Central Community College.

Sculptures, murals, paintings and more grace the Fort Dodge landscape to be enjoyed by all.

“In general, I think Fort Dodge has plenty of wonderful works spread throughout the community,” said Eric Anderson, director at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.

Anderson said Fort Dodge has always had public art pieces –some are older works, such as the bronzes near the public square and courthouse to newer pieces such as the Parade that sits off 5th Avenue and the largest mural in Iowa – the Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural.

Anderson said the city of Fort Dodge understands the importance of public artwork within the community. One of the drives that come from a wide range of public art within a community is an economical one.

“It is a way to attract businesses and professionals to the community,” he said. “It is one of the things they look for – what is the culture like?”

Eric Anderson, director of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, stands next to the sculpture, Hold Fast – which happens to be one of his favorites.

An artist friend of Anderson’s who teaches at the University of Northern Iowa in their sculpture department there spoke to him about why Target chose to build a large distribution center in Cedar Falls.

“They saw all of the public artwork downtown,” said Anderson. “That was one of their driving decisions to bring that facility to that town.”

Anderson said there have been several studies done on how public art provides economic drive to support that story.

“It drives local economy. People are spending money. Eating at restaurants, staying in hotels,” he said. “Obviously businesses, when looking for a new place to go, they want to make sure the communities have a holistic approach. Fort Dodge, we have really great sporting attractions, we have the OHV Park, and we have the Blanden. We have things, but I think if the community comes together and really embraces public art, fine arts and the performing arts all together, Fort Dodge, I think is on the edge of really being able to draw some companies in.”

Anderson said he would like to see Fort Dodge follow in some footsteps of other communities.

The Parade has been sitting at the intersection Fifth Avenue South and Eighth Street since 2008. This sculpture depicts people walking with hands linked.

Communities are often part of a collaboration where they cycle through – or share art pieces. They may have mini sculptures displayed for a certain amount of time and then they get cycled through the program and new artwork is brought in.

“I would like that here. I think it would be really great if Fort Dodge would embrace that,” he said. Especially with Main street, looking at downtown and how to change the appearance. I would like to see that kind of a program established and integrated within their design. I think there is an economic component a lot of people don’t even look at or understand.”

Fort Dodge’s public art

To view a directory of some of Fort Dodge’s public art, Anderson recommends visiting the city’s public art website at www.fortdodgepublicart.org. There, visitors will see photos of some of the pieces within the community and a description of the item.

The Parade

The sculpture “Cyclus” depicts rolling oak leaves. This sculpture can be seen at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.

Thousands may drive by this sculpture every day. The Parade, which is located at the intersection of 5th Ave. and 8th Street is a sculpture by artist William King that depicts individuals walking with hands linked, representing the essence of community spirit.


Anderson said many enjoy the Cyclus sculpture, or also known as oak leaves on the lawn of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.

Cyclus suggests the sculptural rotational composition of leaves and was built by artist Tom Stancliffe of New Hartford, Iowa.

Hold Fast

Hold Fast is another sculpture that sits on the lawn at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.

Designed by artist Robert Craig, Hold Fast is one of Anderson’s favorite public art pieces in Fort Dodge.

Anderson said he collaborated with Craig on the project.

“We talked about the historical neighborhood we sit in, the pioneers of the industry that lived in this area and their connection with the Blanden,” he said. “I talked about the oak trees – that is where we get the name The Historical Oak Hill District from. He was able to take the history of the location, the history of the museum, the connection with these families and that is what he came with.”

The main form of Hold Fast is a rudder of a ship.

“That is what directs the ship, just like a lot of people in this neighborhood directed the city’s growth,” said Anderson.

The colors of red and dark green, Anderson said are reflective of the oak leaves and the buildings neighboring the museum.

Those colors, he said seem to slightly change with the seasons.

“The way the light hits it as it goes through the seasons, the colors seem to shift a little bit,” he said. “It is a very peaceful piece.”


Axiom is located at Iowa Central Community College near the Bioscience building.

This piece was also designed by Stancliffe. Placed in 2010, the sculpture was inspired by the graphic representations of the molecular structures found in all organic life.


Chronicle is one of the newer public art pieces that can be found in Fort Dodge.

This piece was constructed by artist Dan Perry and is located to the east of City Hall.

Chronicle was built to help commemorate Fort Dodge’s 150th anniversary.

“It is really looking at the history of the town. It is pulling elements from that history, and looks at the architecture from that area. It talks about celebrating our past but also looks towards our future,” he said. “It’s an abstract version of Fort Dodge’s past, present and future.”

Chronicle features a torch at the top that lights up a bit at night with elements on the bottom that are close up versions of crystalline structure of gypsum.

Cabinet of Obsolescence

The Cabinet of Obsolescence, by artists Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues is located inside the Fort Dodge Middle School and is an interactive piece that contains obsolete items.

“This one gets overlooked,” said Anderson. “It is a piece that moves through an entire space, but there are little cabinets of things we don’t use anymore. It’s an interactive piece and built out of materials that allow students to sit on it, walk on it and engage with it.”

Anderson encourages people to explore Fort Dodge’s public art.

“Take some time. Explore. With any public art, you really need to get out and engage with it. Driving by is not enough. Most of the times, sculpture is made to walk around,” he said. “It is a really great way to spend the afternoon with family.”

Why not fix the potholes?

There has always been a lot of confusion as to how these public art pieces are funded.

“It is really a great testament to the city of Fort Doge that all the public artwork we have has been funded by exterior funding sources,” said Anderson. “Public dollars never go to fund the public art work.”

Those exterior funding sources, Anderson explained are created from grants, donations, funding by businesses and more.

Money used for city infrastructure, he added is different than any money that is put towards public artwork.

“Really, I want to make sure people understand that their tax money is not going to fund those types of things,” he said. “Public art is outside of that realm.”


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