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Floyd of Rosedale project moves forward

-Submitted image
This rendering shows how the Floyd of Rosedale statue might look at the roundabout near the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center.

Soon, some pig could be a traffic-stopper at 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street.

About a year since its steering committee was formed, the Floyd of Rosedale public art sculpture has received approval from the newly-formed Public Arts Commission to move forward, slated for a potential 2020 installation.

“The plan is to create a close replica of the trophy itself for the 32nd Street roundabout for visibility,” said David Flattery, city councilman for Ward 3, to the city’s Public Arts Commission at its first meeting Thursday. “But it’s really to resurrect the story of Floyd that could someday be lost.”

The patina-finish public hog, which preliminary conceptual sketches show will stand 14 feet tall and 15 feet long, aims to bring to light the story behind the legendary pig that solved significant racial disputes between the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota.

The tradition that lives in the form of a trophy held by the winner of matches between the Division I college football teams started as a wager for a live hog, offered to Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring by Minnesota Gov. Floyd Olson.

-Messenger file photo
Dave Flattery shows a photo of the original Floyd of Rosedale, the pig from Rosedale Farms which was given to Minneapolis Gov. Floyd Olson after a wager in 1935. The pig’s brother, Blue Boy, was featured in the movie “State Fair” shown at left.

The Hawkeyes’ running back, Ozzie Simmons, had been knocked out three times during a previous game against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. He was one of the few black players at the time.

Iowa lost the1935 game, so Herring obtained a hog from Allen Loomis, the owner of dairy-producing Rosedale Farms outside of Fort Dodge. Herring named it Floyd and had it delivered to the Minnesota governor’s office.

“A lot of Hawkeye players don’t even know the story. It’s just a trophy to them,” said Scott Johnson, member of the commission.

Flattery said the monument with a message could be made into a destination in its own right, with the proper promotion, similar to the grain silo painted by Guido van Helten of Australia. The city has engaged three bloggers for the promotion of the silo.

“The Floyd of Rosedale is arguably the most well-known Division I trophy in college football today,” said Flattery.

-Messenger file photo
A plaque commemmorates Floyd of Rosedale at the trailhead next to Rosedale Rapids, in the area of Fort Dodge where Rosedale Farms once stood.

But there’s still some work to do before that can happen.

The steering committee, which found three artists it liked from a request for proposals, is in the process of finalizing a contract with artist Dale Merrill, of Mount Vernon, as the architect.

The 10-member commission gave its blessing for the project to move forward, on the condition that design and project updates will be given with their feedback taken into consideration.

But what’s more is that in bringing that story to light, the $125,000 public art project will attempt to set in motion future public art projects.

The commission, which will now meet on the first Thursday of every month at 3:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, will take on the responsibility of promoting and overseeing projects. Flattery said the City Council will aim to set aside regular allocations for public art to avoid relying on donations.

“We’ve never really done that before,” he said of the uncharted territory. “When those projects come around, the council will want this group’s recommendation with support of people like you who are familiar with art.”

The vision, which is more than just allocating money, will retain the commission’s guidance on more than the nuts and bolts of art displays.

“It’s asking whether it’s a good story to tell, or a good thing to have,” Flattery said.

But in its first meeting, the commission had plenty to say about the specifics presented on the elevated hog.

“I’m concerned that the aspects of the story I love most, sportsmanship and justice, aren’t apparent,” said Jane Gibbs, chair person of the commission. “They’re abstractions. You can’t draw justice, per se.”

Several members speculated about the possibility of incorporating words into the sculpture that would get the message across to generations who don’t know the legend of Floyd or its definition beyond a simple animal.

“Kids won’t know the story unless it’s widely told,” Gibbs said, concerned that nearby middle school students won’t know what it’s really about. “I feel this is a good start, but it’s not doing what I want it to do.”

She said the symbolic pig is “the essence of equality, justice and sportsmanship,” and that first-time visitors should have a way to know that when they see it from a distance for the first time.

“You don’t want people walking to the roundabout,” said member Steve Kersten, who suggested that a more extensive description at an accessible point be implemented.

Moving forward, the design will consider incorporating the appropriate words into the art as well as placards that will display a QR code. When scanned by a smartphone, the code will be able to show visitors a more extensive history and start them on a journey to other public works of art around town.

The Cor-Ten weathering steel and naturally oxidized patina finish can be etched with words, Flattery said. LED lights could also be put inside to make those words visible at night. Alternatively, words could make up the base of the structure.

The art, which originally started under the initial proposal of being a fully-functional shelter, shifted to its roundabout form after cost estimates came in at $750,000 to $1 million, Flattery said. The current $125,000 estimate for the roundabout came in at the low-end of previous speculations that said the project could cost up to a quarter million.

Though goals are in place to eventually move the pig to the year-round structure form, the roundabout display will bring more visibility and attention than it would get in a park, he said.

But even in its current proposed form, Flattery said the project could serve as an evolving cultural center for keeping similarly important stories alive in Fort Dodge.

“Great art first will bring tourists,” Gibbs said. “But quality of art is a critical factor here.”