State Historical Museum staff helps Roosevelt students prepare sculpture exhibit

For immediate release November 23, 2005



Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Museum will be home to some unique and unusual guests next week.

Thirteen life-size plaster sculptures depicting teenagers in typical adolescent activities – talking on the phone, studying, playing sports – will go on display in various locations throughout the museum December 2 through January 8. Roosevelt High School art students created the sculptures this fall under the direction of teacher Becky Johnson. As part of the exhibit installation process, museum curators and designers are teaching the students how to prepare them professionally for public display.

“This is a wonderful example of how the the State Historical Museum creates learning opportunities for students,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Anita Walker said. “The educational value they’re receiving goes far beyond the art appreciation and art skills they’ve developed in the classroom. The collaboration and problem-solving skills they’re learning in working with each other and with our museum staff are lessons that will last a lifetime.”

During the past few weeks, museum staff has been teaching the students professional display techniques involving exhibit installation, writing labels and loan agreements, and analyzing the “health” of their sculptures during the installation and exhibit process.

“The students are writing their own labels with some direction from our curators,” Walker said. “They’re learning proper phrasing for exhibit purposes, professional research and display standards, and ongoing care and maintenance of their sculptures.”

The public got its first look at the sculptures about a month ago as part of To All Gates: Destination – Roosevelt, an art exhibit based on the George Segal piece To All Gates. Johnson also recruited several Roosevelt-area business owners to display the sculptures in their stores this month.

“The whole thrust of this work was to focus on high school students being typical students caught in typical high school activities,” Johnson said. “For most adults, high school was the last major educational experience they had, so we wanted the sculptures to be something that would help them refocus and remember what it was like to be human and in high school. We wanted to show people ‘this is what we’re really about.’”

Students from three classes worked on the sculptures for nearly five weeks, dividing into teams to create their projects. One person from each team served as a model and had different parts of his or her body wrapped in plaster bandages. The students drew inspiration from activities they do every day. For example, Can You Hear Me Now? depicts a girl talking on a cell phone. Another shows a girl playing guitar.

Walker saw the sculptures during a visit to the school in early November and suggested they be put on display at the museum.

“It’s a perfect fit,” Walker said. “Part of our mission is to encourage culture and the arts, and another part is to support the educational efforts of others. Bringing these students into the museum and having them undergo this process adds another dimension to the lessons their learning in the classroom.”

After the sculptures are installed, the students will get an additional learning opportunity – a behind-the-scenes museum tour led by curators.

“This is a unique opportunity for these students to learn first-hand how a museum operates and functions,” Walker said. “In addition to learning about professional display standards during the installation process of their sculptures, they’ll also get a close look at how we use our in-house wood shop, metal shop and graphic design offices to create exhibits. They’ll learn about the whole process and all the phases of exhibit development. From the initial idea to the research to the creation and installation of an exhibit, they’re going to get a close look at the inner workings of the museum.”

The State Historical Museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public.

The State Historical Museum is operated by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state.


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