The Boulevard Sculptures
The four lighted sculptures tell the story of the evolution of a rural community. They stand on Willis Boulevard as monuments to Perry's pioneering spirit and commemorate the historical development of Perry: the railway, agriculture, industry, and art.
In 2016, Art on the Prairie commissioned Des Moines Sculptor John Brommel to create the first two Boulevard Sculptures, Born of Fire and Iowa Girl. Jim Russell, also a Des Moines sculptor, was commissioned by Art on the Prairie in 2018 to create the last two sculptures, Speed Train and Furrowed Fields.
Born of Fire
The first boulevard sculpture, unveiled on August 28, 2017, recognizes the historical role of industry in Perry's development. Entitled Born of Fire, this eleven-foot aluminum sculpture depicts an elevated crucible supported in mid-air by the stream of molten metal it is pouring. This sculpture is depicted to the memory of Pete Van Kirk, who was not only the owner of Progressive Foundry, but also an active member of the community, known for his generosity and philanthropy.
The second boulevard sculpture, unveiled on November 11, 2017, recognizes the role art has played in Perry's historical development and is dedicated to Roberta Ahmanson. The Hotel Pattee and the three other buildings she restored are in and of themselves works of art. This sculpture reflects our community's deep gratitude to Roberta Ahmanson.
The third boulevard sculpture, dedicated on July 9, 2018, commemorates the historical role of the railroad in Perry's development. It pays tribute to the rich, 98-year legacy of the Milwaukee Railroad in Perry. Russell's depiction of the Hiawatha, the most famous of all Milwaukee Road trains, is installed at the intersection of Willis and 1st Avenue, where the Milwaukee Railroad once passed through Perry and near the trailhead for the bike trail. Speed Train serves as a gateway to both the boulevard sculptures and Perry's restored downtown.
The fourth boulevard sculpture was unveiled on November 10, 2018. It pays tribute to the role of agriculture in Perry's historical development. Celebrating both the land and the people of Iowa who have worked the land for generations, Furrowed Fields depicts a large plow blade embedded in the soil. Jim Russell, the sculptor, believes there is a very linear connection between the ordinary plow implemented by individual people who harvest their crops, and the growth of communities where marketplaces store, manage and distribute the fruits of those labors.