Drinkwater collaborated with students to create magnet art in Morill Hall

Ellen Cram, sophomore in pre-architecture, works on a drawing Friday, March 23, at the Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall.

Alexandra Smith

“These are magnets they can live anywhere in the paintings.”

This is what a stand reads in Christian Petersen Art Museum where Jennifer Drinkwater has taken a whole new spin on art, making art interactive.

Every Friday during the spring semester, Drinkwater will be at Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall answering students’ questions and helping them make magnets.

Drinkwater took Grant Wood’s artwork called “When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow,” which is displayed in Parks Library east wing, first-floor staircase and made a smaller version with elements in the artwork missing.

Students are invited to add magnets to the paintings wherever they like. There are some magnets already made or they can make their own.

Wood was a former ISU student. He came up with the name for the artwork from a speech he heard on agriculture saying farmers were the beginning of human civilization.

He planned on making 17 murals for Parks Library, but only 12 were completed, of agriculture, mechanics and home economics. The six paintings that Wood did not complete were supposed to involve theater, sculpture, painting, poems, music and architecture. No sketches were found or anything for the remaining six.

Once Drinkwater started digging into Wood’s story, she said she became very interested and decided to brainstorm ideas for a project.

Drinkwater said the magnets are supposed to represent the six missing pieces in the collection. However, anything can be put on the paintings; there are magnets from the Facebook logo to an iPod made by students.

“I think it’s cool that this gets students participating and learning about the artwork on campus,” said Shoma Chandra,senior in advertising and psychology.

Drinkwater said she wanted to make artwork that was specific to Iowa. 

“I was inspired to do this because I wanted to work on something Iowa-specific. I also like that it is interactive and not just my vision,” Drinkwater said.

Drinkwater explained that in the 193’s when Wood created these paintings, the university was in a similar financial climate as it is now and artwork distracted people from the economic downturn.

“The art built up the beauty; Iowa State has some of the biggest public displays of art in the United States,” Drinkwater said.

Drinkwater had the help of Nancy Girard, who works with university museums.

“There is great value in calibration, you can learn so much from it,” Drinkwater said.

Girard gave Drinkwater the space for the exhibition.

“Drinkwater, about a year ago, was talking about doing something with Grant Wood’s image,” Girard said.

Girard suggested Drinkwater do something on campus.

“We aren’t going to add any new paintings to Wood’s creations, because they represent the time back in the 1930s,” Girard said. “But it’s always fun to play around with what could have been with the six incomplete paintings in Wood’s series.”