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News :: Vinton native has unique opportunity to assist in Borlaug statue project
· 12:28pm March 19th, 2013
Vinton native Jessica Rundlett says she has a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to help place a statue of Iowa agricultural pioneer Norman Borlaug in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.
A few days ago, Jessica, the daughter of Bill and Deb Rundlett of Vinton, helped unload a statue of Borlaug in Des Moines. This week, she is watching the artist complete that statue.
As a special assistant to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Jessica has been working on the Borlaug project for the past several months. Now, for the next two weeks, Iowans can watch the statue take on its final shape before being sent to Washington, D.C.
The Borlaug statue will replace the statue of 19th Century Iowa Senator James Harlan in Statuary Hall, which has been on display there since 1910. The Harlan statue will return to Iowa and be on display in Mount Pleasant, at Iowa Wesleyan College, which Harlan served as President.
The Iowa Legislature makes the decisions on which two statues to display in D.C. The other statue representing Iowa is of Samuel Jordan Kirkwood, who served as Iowa’s Governor during the Civil War.
It’s likely that the Borlaug statue will represent Iowa in D.C. for decades.
“This is truly a once in a lifetime event,” says Jessica, who has been a special assistant to the Department of Cultural Affairs for the past year. “Each state can send two sculptures of notable residents to National Statuary Hall, and it's rare that a state rotates their statues. For a century, Iowa has been represented by Harlan and Kirkwood, the state's original submissions to National Statuary Hall. The Harlan statue will be replaced by Borlaug.”
What makes this project even more special is the fact that the artist, Benjamin Victor, is working on the statue in a public setting. For the next two weeks, Victor will be working on the Borlaug project as an artist-in-residence while interacting with visitors at the State Historical Building just west of the Capitol Building.
“Iowans have an opportunity to see him sculpt the statue, and get an up-close look at the process,” says Jessica. “It’s very exciting to be interacting with Benjamin as he works.”
Personally, Jessica says she has learned much more about Borlaug’s important work in the agriculture industry that has helped to feed billions.
"I have learned a lot about Dr. Borlaug,” she says. “He was an incredible Iowan, someone everyone should be proud of. He had an unmatched work ethic and persevered until he achieved the results he wanted. His work saved more than a billion lives. This project has piqued my curiosity and made me want to read the two-volume Borlaug biography that to date has just been sitting on my bookshelf.”
Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, died in 2009.
Jessica also says she now has a better appreciation for Statuary Hall.
“This project has humanized National Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. I have often visited Statuary Hall, but have thought of it as a nearly static collection, rather than an ever-changing representation of the nation. To be a part of the process is incredible. I love knowing that for the rest of my life I can visit Statuary Hall and know one of the sculptors is my friend and that I played a small part in Iowa's representation there," she says.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is the state’s “cultural and historic arm,” says Jessica. The Department manages the State Historical Society and Museum as well as the Iowa Arts Council. Jessica’s main job as a special assistant is handling the documents of the various committees of the department.
From 10 a.m. to noon and from 2-4 p.m. on weekdays through March 28, the public can watch as Victor completes the 7-foot statue, which will later be cast in bronze.
“This part of this project is really cool for Iowans,” says Jessica. Many sculptors would just do the work in their private studios, but ours will be an artist-in-residence.”
Through March 28, Victor will be at the State Historical Museum, 600 East Locust Street, Des Moines. Admission to the Museum is free.
About the artist
Benjamin Victor is the youngest sculptor to ever have a piece in National Statuary Hall. He was only 26 when he sculpted Sarah Winnemucca for the State of Nevada.
After the Iowa Legislature approved the Borlaug project, 65 artists submitted proposals. After eight finalists were narrowed down to four, each of those four submitted a miniature statue of Borlaug.
Below is the official press release from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs:
DESMOINES – The artist selected to create a statue of Norman Borlaug (1914-2009) for the U.S. Capitol Building begins a two-week residency at the State Historical Museum of Iowa Monday.
Benjamin Victor, commissioned last fall by the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Statue Committee, will be at the StateHistoricalMuseumMarch 18-28, 2013, to interact with Iowans and work on the statue. He will be located in the Museum’s “Saving Our Stuff” exhibition 10 a.m.-noonand 2-4 p.m.Monday-Saturday and 2-4 p.m.Sunday. The StateHistoricalMuseumis at 600 E. Locust Streetin Des Moines. Admission is free and open to the public.
“With March 25th being the 99th anniversary of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s birth, this was the perfect time to invite Benjamin here to interact with Iowans and demonstrate how he is creating the statue,” Ambassador Kenneth Quinn said. Quinn is chair of the Borlaug Statue Committee and president of the World Food Prize. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see an artist of Benjamin’s acclaim, so we encourage Iowans and others to visit the HistoricalMuseumto meet him and learn more about Norman Borlaug.”
Victor is an internationally-recognized artist with a long list of sculpture credits. At age 26, he became the youngest artist to have a statue placed in the U.S. Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall – the nation’s foremost collection of figurative sculpture – when he completed a 6’4” statue of Sarah Winnemucca for the state of Nevada.
He also has numerous works on display throughout the country, including his statue of Belle Babb Mansfield – the first female attorney in the United States– at IowaWesleyanCollegein Mt.Pleasant.
The bronze statue of Borlaug will stand seven feet tall. The goal is to have it installed in the U.S. Capitol Building on March 25, 2014, the centennial observance of Borlaug’s birth. It will be one of two statues depicting notable citizens from Iowa. The Borlaug statue will replace one of U.S. Sen. James Harlan, which will be returned to Iowa. The other statue representing Iowais of Gov. Samuel Kirkwood.
The Borlaug Statue Committee, appointed by Governor Terry Branstad, chose Victor from a field of 65 candidates after conducting a world-wide artist search that reflected the global impact of Borlaug’s life and career.
A Cresco native, Borlaug is credited for saving a billion lives through his development of new wheat varieties. His achievements earned him recognition as Father of the Green Revolution and the distinction of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian honor.
Iowans and others interested in learning more about Borlaug may visit the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, 100 Locust Streetin Des Moines. The Hall of Laureates is open to the public for tours 9 a.m.-1 p.m.free of charge on most Tuesdays and Saturdays.
In addition, the Hall of Laureates will be open 5 a.m.-3 p.m.March 25, 2013, in recognition of Borlaug’s 99th birthday and in conjunction with WHO Radio’s on-site broadcast of the Van and Bonnie In the Morning Program. Victor will speak at the Hall of Laureates from 11 a.m.to noonthat day.
Visit www.worldfoodprize.org for more information.
In addition to Victor’s residency, the StateHistoricalMuseumis offering numerous activities during Spring Break, March 18-22. A list of activities follows:
Exhibit Tours, Make-and-Take Workshops and Daily Activities – March 18-22, 10 a.m.and 12:30 p.m.daily
Exhibits – Ongoing
The State Historical Museum opened four new exhibits during the past year with topics ranging from Iowans in the Civil War; preservation and conservation of artifacts; cultural and historical amenities in Iowa’s 99 counties; and 25 artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection:
· Iowaand the Civil War: Nothing But Victory
· Saving Our Stuff
· 99 Counties of Iowa
· 25 Artifacts Spanning 120 Years of the State Historical Museum
In addition, the StateHistoricalMuseumoffers tours of its permanent collection, which is held in a climate-controlled “vault” beneath the StateHistoricalBuilding. To schedule a tour, contact Sarah Macht at 515-242-5193.
Youth Art Month – March
The winning entries in a statewide art competition involving Iowastudents are on display this month at the StateHistoricalMuseum. Sponsored by Arts Educators of Iowa with support from the Department of Cultural Affairs, the competition showcases works by Iowastudents in grades K-12.
Café Baratta’s – Open 11 a.m.-2 p.m.Monday-Saturday
The State Historical Museum and Café Baratta’s are located at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, call 515-281-5111 or visit www.culturalaffairs.orgor www.iowahistory.org.
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