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Australian artist selected for FD silo

‘It’s a unique opportunity to put Fort Dodge on the map with an internationally-known artist’

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Maggie Carlin, associate planner with the City of Fort Dodge, shows off a model of the final design for the silo painting project.

An Australian artist was selected by the Fort Dodge Public Art Committee to design and paint an unused grain elevator along Hawkeye Avenue, Maggie Carlin, associate city planner, announced Wednesday.

Artwork by Guido van Helten, of Brisbane, Australia, was chosen by the Public Art Committee. The Public Art Committee was formed in 2016 to oversee the Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural Project. The committee is comprised of city planning staff, Blanden Memorial Art Museum staff, the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association board, and the Image Committee of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

Van Helten’s artwork will show people from the Fort Dodge area. A limestone and gypsum mining worker, hospital worker, a scene from youth baseball, and Jessica Einwalter, assistant curator and historical advisor of the Fort Museum and Frontier Village will be featured around the entire 110-foot tall grain silos near the Des Moines River. The photos were taken by van Helten on a prior visit to Fort Dodge.

His artwork was chosen over four other finalists. They were:

• Local scenes, including the Oleson Park Bandshell and the railroad bridge over the Des Moines River, by Josh Johnson, of Fort Dodge;

• A collage by Brent Holland, of Des Moines;

• Children playing in a meadow by Rolf and Peter Goetzinger, of Spokane, Washington;

• Prairie flowers by Hannah Wilson, of Durango, Colorado.

The Public Art Committee made its decision based on six criteria, according to Carlin.

The six criteria used were: artistic value created, public support gained, image portrayed, project specifications, incorporation of the project’s message, and competitive budget.

The Public Art Committee received a total of 16 designs. That number was then trimmed to five final designs which were voted on by the public.

Earlier this month, that public voting was held at Crossroads Mall. Votes were cast by placing a kernel of corn in a jar next to the silo of choice.

Carlin reported 250 votes, but declined to say how many votes each proposal received.

The selection came as a shock to some as indicated through posts on social media.

Jared Wingert, of Britt, said he is not happy with the choice.

“I was disappointed and surprised in the result,” he said. “I thought the local artist’s was perfect.”

Wingert said he was born and raised in Fort Dodge.

“I believe the local artist’s design was the strongest representation of our town,” he said.

But according to Carlin, public input wasn’t the deciding factor.

“We definitely appreciated the public helping out and giving their input,” she said. “That wasn’t the determining factor itself, but it was something considered. We wanted to spread the word that this project was going to occur, so it helped to communicate that.”

The artistic value generated from van Helten’s design was a deciding factor.

“Speaking generally for the group, they looked to review those six criteria,” she said. “Another determining factor is the artistic value created. I think the Public Art Committee felt that this was a unique opportunity to select an internationally known artist who has done these types of projects worldwide.”

In a recent letter to the Public Art Committee, van Helten wrote, “Since my visit to Fort Dodge in late November 2016 I have been really excited by the idea of bringing my work in the form of large-scale mural and photography project to Fort Dodge, Iowa.”

He added, “I hope to spend the required time in Fort Dodge during the decided timeline in order to capture the unique sense of identity, life in Fort Dodge and the special character of people here to create this body of work.”

Van Helten spent a week in Fort Dodge in May visiting with residents and learning about the community, according to Carlin.

The silos will be passed by about 7,300 vehicles daily, Carlin said.

Van Helten’s work has been featured throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia.

“It’s a unique opportunity to put Fort Dodge on the map with an internationally-known artist,” Carlin added.

She said van Helten’s artwork is designed to blend into the silos over time.

“Other conditions in regards to fading are beneficial to the soft color palette,” she said. “Once it ages over time it will just more so blend into the silo itself.”

The type of paint to be used has about a 20-year lifespan, according to Carlin.

Long-term, the city will responsible for the maintenance of the mural, she said.

The total cost for the project is estimated at $180,000.

The project is being funded through grants and private donations.

A $10,000 grant was received from the Iowa Arts Council about two weeks ago.

To date, about $100,000 has been raised.

“We will start to focus on fundraising efforts over the next several months to make this a reality for next spring and summer,” Carlin said.

The grain elevator is to be painted during the summer of 2018, pending funding.

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