DES MOINES, Iowa, March 22, 2018 -- When David Dahlquist, the leader of the art team that has designed and built "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails" on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, first introduced himself on the Iowa art scene in the 1980s, he was known mostly for his work in clay, pottery, ceramics and sculpture.
But in the late 1980s, he received his first commission for a larger "public art installation" from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Arts Council for a sculpture at Pleasant Creek State Park, near Palo or just west of Cedar Rapids. It was installed in 1990, and his career began fast-track growth. Now, nearly 30 years later, he and his colleagues at RDG Planning & Design's Dahlquist Art Studio in Des Moines have done "about 70" significantly-sized art installations from coast-to-coast and border-to-border in the U.S. In fact, they've worked beyond the northern border, as they've done a commuter rail station in Calgary, Canada.
Below here are photos of several of our favorite works by Dahlquist and team -- and most of these photos were provided by the Dahlquist Art Studio at RDG.
The iconic bridge on the High Trestle Trail, which opened in 2011, is located between the towns of Woodward and Madrid. The half-mile long bridge, which is 140 feet high, spans the Des Moines River and its valley. The Dahlquist team used the stone entrances to the bridge, and the rusted steel framework around it, to reflect the coal mining heritage of the area.
The fantastic “Paragon Prairie Tower” stands 120 feet tall, with a water feature and fountains around it, in the Paragon Office Park in Urbandale on the northwest corner of Des Moines. With coordinated signboards and landscaping below and around it, the tower tells the story of the Iowa prairies. The surface of the tower has an amazing 1.8 million pieces of tessera mosaic tile, which average “about 5/8 of an inch” in size, David Dahlquist said. He went to Ravenna, Italy, to find the tessera supply for the tower, which was completed in 2007. It is lighted at night and is easily visible from Interstate Highways 35 & 80 as they sweep around the metro area.
The Dahlquist artwork on this commuter train station in the Martindale neighborhood of Calgary, Canada, is called “Confluence,” which refers to two rivers meeting nearby, and the name has additional meaning because the neighborhood is populated by about 100,000 people who’ve come together from two other nations – India and Pakistan. The Dahlquist team worked with people of all ages in the community as they developed the concept.
This colorful “Sun Pavilion” in a park in El Paso, Texas, is lighted at night, and it’s just as inspiring then as in the daylight.
Dahlquist was one of several artists who were commissioned in Omaha to do a new streetscape on South 24th Street in that city. His team’s “Tree of Life” shown here, pays tribute with its varied icons and symbols, to four ethnic groups – the Czechs, Polish, Croatians and Latinos – who have worked through the decades in the Omaha stockyards and meatpacking industry.
At Greensboro Station in Tysons Corner, Virginia, one of the light-rail stations between Washington, D.C., and Dulles International Airport, the Dahlquist team was commissioned to produce these stylized columns, which are lighted from within at night. The silver rings around the masonroy bases contain lines of verse by different poet laureates of Virginia.
“Lift” is the name of the artwork the Dahlquist team did for the rest stop near Adair along Interstate Highway 80 in western Iowa. Dahlquist himself also refers to it as “the Blade.” With the art and storyboards, the installation explains the magnitude and importance of the new wind energy industry in rural America.
The components are in fabrication now for the “Lily Pavilion,” a structure that artfully provides shade, some shelter and a gathering place for people at the south end of Jack Trice Stadium at Iowa State University in Ames. The intricate cuts in the “ceiling” piece of the structure are “based on the cellular structure of a Victoria lily,” Dahlquist said.