New sculpture takes shape at Cowles Commons

Oct 7, 2015

From the Des Moines Register - Michael Morain

If you missed Sunday's demolition of the old downtown YMCA, well, at least you can watch another construction spectacle just two blocks away. And this one will last a bit longer.

A crew arrived at 7 a.m. Tuesday to begin installing a massive steel-and-light sculpture in the middle of Cowles Commons. They planted nine curved steel columns that will soon suspend a glowing cloud of LED lights up to 30 feet in the air.

The artist, Jim Campbell of San Francisco, hasn't named the piece yet, but he has likened it to a nest, designed to look good both day and at night. It plays off the open-ended form of the popular "Crusoe Umbrella" sculpture on the brick plaza's northeast corner.

"I really liked the fact that it was a non-functioning nest because it doesn't have a bottom, in the same way the umbrella is a non-function umbrella because it doesn't have a top," the artist said during a site visit this spring.

Fortunately, the installation crane was functioning - very well - on Tuesday. Barnhart Crane and Rigging operator Jon Fontana of Ankeny carefully lifted the curved steel columns out of a flatbed truck, over a chain-link fence, and down to their anchors in an oval of gravel.

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