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Arts Advocacy...

I would like to pay tribute to a dear friend of mine, the late Deb Burger, who worked as a visionary arts administrator in both Iowa City and Des Moines.  Deb opened my eyes to the leadership and teamwork necessary to bring art into the public sphere.  During the height of our state’s economic downturn in the mid-1980s, Deb and Riley Grimes, who was an assistant to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, persuasively convinced the Board that their new county administration building being built should have a major work of art as a centerpiece, even though no law dictated that supervisors should do so.


From 1989 to 1999 Karen Chappell led the Steering Committee and Wyrick served as secretary/co-chair of a proposed Regional Multi Media Center for the greater Iowa City area. CenterSpace was to be located in the last Urban renewal site in downtown Iowa City at East College Street (on the Ped Mall) and East Linn Streets.


An architect from Hansen-Lind-Meyer served pro bono and Wyrick served on the design committee he headed also. The design included a Conference Center and devoted two floors to the Arts, with commercial space in other areas, allowing the adjacent hotel to expand into its upper floors and the lower floor be devoted to retail. Unfortunately, the committee of 50 people that had worked for 10 years together was unsuccessful in achieving the dream. The city-wide vote for the Center was defeated in 1999 and the site was turned into commercial space with the hotel occupying its top floors.


During the 1990s, in preparation for space in CenterSpace, Wyrick worked very hard to develop the Iowa City/Johnson County Arts Council’s gallery space that it rented below ground on Washington Street. Its programs were designed to become a model for one of the arts venues to be housed in CenterSpace.


Their rental space had some drawbacks of accessibility and water leakage into one of its gallery spaces.  The new name of Arts Iowa City was chosen and gallery programs were based on fundraising techniques emphasizing donor recognition for financial support. A wide variety of arts were presented, including small theatre presentations, readings, visual arts shows and arts workshops. Support grew. However, not enough time was given the CenterSpace committee to mount an effective campaign for voter approval.




City High School Arts Council...

In the 1990’s Wyrick served as a member of the City High School Arts Council, Iowa City, representing the public and the arts. During that time, the ICCSD (Iowa City Community School District) accepted the proposed core requirement that Visual Arts classes would be required for all students during their two years in junior high. The core requirement was later limited to one year.


The City High Arts Council’s recommendation that visual arts become a core requirement in high schools was rejected by the ICCSD.



Shirley Wyrick Talk at “Ignite the Night” Event  June 29, 2005

Iowa Historical Building at

Site of Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary

I am delighted to be here this evening to “Ignite the Night” with you and to see the re-lighting of Cork Marcheschi’s restored artwork, Plains Aurora, which will once again be a beacon from Des Moines’ lively East Village.  It is also gratifying to me that this event marks the kickoff that will help Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary to achieve its true potential as it becomes Greenfall.  (As noted in Section 7 Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary of this website, the name Greenfall was ultimately abandoned.)


I was asked to speak briefly about Art in Public Places—a subject of great interest to me as an artist and citizen.  I’ve been intrigued by the many directions art-in-public places has taken and by the many ways in which it is defined and selected and also funded through public, private and public/private partnerships.


I believe we desperately need to enhance our public spaces to satisfy our need for wonder, meditation and delight and also to leave a record of ourselves, and a legacy for the future.  Much of art-in-public places becomes a “Place Maker” that defines the place and the community it serves.  But very simply put: I believe Art (both public and private) speaks to us; Art speaks for us and Art speaks about us.


It takes some very special people to team up to make Art-in-Public Places happen and to make it work––artists are only one part of the team.  Some of the team members are:

First of all, people such as each of you who love art, even art that might be puzzling.


People who lend support through funding the arts, either through the public or private sectors or a partnership of the two.


Institutions, businesses or individuals who provide a site that encourages the public to be in it or to pass through it.


The arts administrators, the arts committee members and individuals who advocate for art, define the scope of a project and undertake the artist selection process.


The artists or arts teams that provide concept, construct and oversight.


Professionals who provide architectural, structural and landscape design and budget estimates


Companies and people who provide fabrication and installation services.


Publicists and media who get out the word about the artwork in a meaningful way.


And most importantly, the people of the public who participate in the artwork (and, for that matter, even those who state the “Emperor has no clothes!” when they encounter and experience new artworks!  These people make us examine even more closely the validity of the artwork.)

This: my bronze relief, Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary , was based on the first European sighting, from the juncture of the Wisconsin and the Mississippi Rivers in northeast Iowa, of the land that became our State of Iowa. Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary marks the first interface between Native People and European cultures and also signifies the historic cultural break that underlies the establishment of Iowa’s boundaries.
My sculpture was designed to interact with a 38-foot wide waterfall, but several problems with the waterfall and its design developed and plagued it as I was creating the sculpture and throughout the years that followed.
About two years into the project, in 1988, I proposed Critical Juncture / Greenfall (and that proposal is here on this easel), that substitutes both indigenous and European greenery and a sculptural stainless steel framework to simulate the flowing waterfall.  Although the art selection committee agreed at that time that this would be a fine solution, funding to do so was not available.
With Anita Walker’s leadership, interest in Greenfall has been rekindled.  And I will be extremely grateful for the opportunity to, as I see it, complete the work.  The bronze relief, Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary has itself stood the test of time.  I believe that once created, Greenfall, along with Prairie Aurora will become a point of great pride for Des Moines area residents and visitors.
I invite each of you to help make Greenfall a reality.  Thanks so much for being here on this very special night––we deeply appreciate it!  I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the transition to Greenfall this evening or I’ll be happy to give you my business card so you can contact me later.

A note: In 2005, 17 years after Critical Juncture / Fluid Boundary was installed, Wyrick was authorized to carry out her proposal to simulate a waterfall with stainless steel rods. The name Greenfall was never adopted for the sculpture since plantings in the upper basin were unable to be maintained by the State’s grounds crews because of the excess heat in that area.


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