"River Of Milk" Mural Installed at Iowa State Dairy Farm

January 28th, 2009

AMES, Iowa — An etched glass mural titled "River of Milk" has been installed at the Iowa State University Dairy Farm's visitor's center.

"The mural blends together dairy production, science and how the two work together to improve the dairy industry," said Diane Spurlock, animal science associate professor, adding that the dairy farm is used for research, education and extension and outreach.

Spurlock was the model for an image of a woman scientist in the mural. A herdsman with a calf was modeled after "Superman" actor Christopher Reeves. The artist, glasswork architect Michaela Mahady from Pegasus Studio of Minneapolis, used pictures of Spurlock and Reeves when she designed the mural. Both figures are etched onto the side windows between the visitor's center and the milking parlor.

Six major dairy breeds are etched onto the top part of the glass windows, with the focus on a design replicating ISU artist-in-residence Christian Petersen's sculpture known as "History of Dairying," which was completed in 1934 in Iowa State College's Dairy Industry Building, now known as the Food Sciences Building.

Mahady's use of Petersen's "History of Dairying" was a way to tie university history to the new dairy facility, Spurlock said.

In the mural, a river of milk flows from Petersen's historical dairy images of the Jersey breed to either side of the mural, under a bridge, through fields and pastures and past the dairy breeds — Holstein, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn.

"We gave Mahady pictures and books about the five dairy breeds," Spurlock said "We wanted the work of art to be something dairy producers would appreciate."

Engraved into a marble border below the mural is the word "milk" written in 27 different languages. "We wanted to represent the international importance of milk and the dairy industry," Spurlock said.

Inspiration for the mural began when the Art in State Buildings committee for the dairy farm began meeting in 2005 and chose Mahady as the artist. As part of the Art in State Buildings legislation, one-half of 1 percent of funds used to construct a facility is required for public art. "River of Milk" joins more than 600 works of public art in the Iowa State University Art in Campus Collection.

Maynard Hogberg, chair of the animal science department said, "The artwork at the dairy farm combines two aspects of Iowa's dairy industry history. There is the story of milk production and how it has changed through the application of science, which is depicted in the different parts of the mural. The second is the bronze dairy cow outside the visitor's center, which was created by ISU alum Norma "Duffy" Lyon, who is well known for her butter cow carvings at the Iowa State Fair each year. That sculpture is really a tribute to her."

Contacts: 

Diane Spurlock, Animal Science, (515) 294-8274, moodyd@iastate.edu

Maynard Hogberg, Animal Science, (515) 294-2160, hogberg@iastate.edu

Laura Rosenbohm, Communications Service, (515) 294-4319, laurar@iastate.edu