Dalquist tells stories about places with public art
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 04/25/2012 9:19 PM
AMES, Iowa —Food like art is "inextricably tied up with economic development," public artist and teacher David Dahlquist told participants in the Local Food Summit at Iowa State University.
He said economist Richard Florida has shown that "we have to provide the place where people want to live and the jobs will follow."
Dahlquist is creative director of RDG Dahlquist Art Studio, a design and fabrication facility within RDG Planning and Design specializing in the integration of art work within building architecture and the landscape. He and the Des Moines studio have completed more than 60 major public art installations across the country.
"Food and art are amazingly connected, and I'm here to talk about connections," said Dahlquist. "People may not see themselves as artists but they may prepare or grow their own food."
Dahlquist became a teacher in clay as a way to connect his students to the earth.
"Food is a way of reconnecting and sharing stories," he said.
Dahlquist said his best connection with food has been through "Move the Food," an initiative of the Des Moines Area Religious Council to feed the hungry. RDG Dahlquist Studios holds an open studio where people can make bowls for a soup supper heldto raise funds for food pantries.
His public work like a bowl brings people into the story and contains them.
"Public art is a way to engage people in the story," Dahlquist said.
He shared some of the public art he has created to signify special places in Iowa.
Paragon Prairie Tower in Urbandale celebrates Iowa's prairie heritage. Gateway in Coon Rapids commemorates Khrushchev's Cold War visit to Roswell Garst's farm. Grain bin sculptures depict the history of hybrid seed corn and Garst's vision of peace through food.
The High Trestle Trail Bridge at Madrid conveys the history of the Des Moines River and coal mining.
In the past 10 years, Dahlquist has been transforming Iowa's rest stops along three interstate highways.
In Woodbury County, visitors are drawn into the story of Lewis and Clark. In Adair County the east-bound rest stop highlights the accomplishments of Henry A. Wallace, former U.S. vice president. Wallace's commitment to soil conservation is celebrated through murals and light columns. Adair County's west-bound rest is a tribute to wind and renewable energy. The Loess Hills, Iowa's literary history and artist Grant Wood are commemorated in other rest stop designs.