Around Iowa State University campus you will see many works of art created by Christian Petersen. Petersen emigrated from Denmark to the United States at the age of nine with his family. At Newark Technical School he learned die-cutting, sculpting designs into metal models, and then in 1920 apprenticed with sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson learning the beaux-arts style used in sculptures honoring war heroes.
After the Great Depression under President Franklin D. Roosevelt the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was created for artists to work on strictly supervised projects for the American Public and he was invited by Grant Wood to come to Iowa State College and worked on two funded projects, the murals for the college library and a fountain for the Dairy Industry Building. Petersen was Iowa’s PWAP only professional sculptor and was able to make his assignment into permanent employment. Petersen became one of the best Regionalist artists with works from the 1930s and 1940s embracing the Midwest culture and history. Christian Petersen was the nation’s first permanent campus artist-in-residence at Iowa State College and taught classes from 1934 through to his retirement in 1955.
Recently I received three archival boxes with Christian Petersen’s sculpting tools and needed to construct one box to house all items. Chisels, a wooden mallet, a vase, a magnifier, and several Italian Caselli sculpting tools were the items Petersen used to create his sculptures. I have my own set of Caselli tools I use in fine work at the Preservation Lab but they are nothing compared to the master’s tools. I constructed a light weight box using corrugated blue board with trays at different levels.
Today Morrill Hall’s Christian Petersen Art Museum houses his works of art, which can also be found all across the Iowa State University campus.