Artwork revealed at Maasdam Barns
A group of people has come together to create works of art at Maasdam Barns.
The artwork consists of aluminum panels representing things that would normally be hung from a clothesline on an old-fashioned farm. At first, the organizers considered attaching artwork, such as a barn quilt, to the historic barns at the site. However, they decided it was not appropriate to alter buildings that were on the National Register of Historic Places.
Instead, the group realized it could make the panels seem even more authentic by hanging them from an actual clothesline near the museum.
The panels were finished and installed less than a month ago but have been taken down in preparation for winter. The panels include a picture of a quilt, socks, a baby’s dress and a panel explaining the tradition of quilting in the area.
The panel of the quilt shows Jacob Maasdam tending to a horse. Maasdam and his business partner Edward G. Wheeler sold award-winning draft horses at the property in the early 20th century. In 1906, Maasdam and his son William brought 47 Percheron horses and one Shetland pony to the farm from their previous home in Pella. The farm ceased selling horses in 1945.
Mark Shafer, curator of the Carnegie Historical Museum, proposed the clothesline design to highlight quilting, one of the folk arts of the Maasdam era. Local artist Elaine Duncan designed the panels with the help of Allen Cobb.
Duncan and Cobb created the designs and sent the computer files to Prison Industries of Iowa, which created the colorful aluminum panels. Some of the funding for the panels came from the families of Shafer and Gene Luedtke in honor of their mothers.
Luedtke and Shafer’s mothers have an interesting connection. Vera Luedtke was Mary Evalyn (Summers) Shafer’s second grade teacher at Black Hawk Township No. 8 School. Fifteen years later in the mid-1940s, Mary Evalyn Shafer would teach at that school herself.
Memorials from Vera Luedtke’s estate and from Mary Evalyn Shafer’s funeral helped finance the project. Mary Evalyn Shafer’s sons Mark, Herb, Lynn and Allen helped with the funding, too. Additional funding came from a RAGBRAI grant and from the Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee.
As project manager, Ron Blair has overseen the creation and installation of the panels on the clothesline. Leon Connelly and Don Cummings helped set up the clothesline poles and wiring. Schaus Vorhies contributed the painting of the clothesline poles and fabricated the stainless steel clothespins, which Mark Shafer designed.
When the museum reopens in May and the panels are put back up, even more features will be added to the clothesline. Around each clothesline pole will be a small garden and flowers as well as memorial stones in honor of Shafer’s mother and Luedtke’s mother. Duncan said there is plenty of room to add more panels to the clothesline in the future.
According to the Maasdam Barns official website, Maasdam Barns features three barns that were built in the early part of the 20th century. One of the barns was built in 1906 by then-owner, Ellsworth Turney. He worked at Joel Turney and Company, which built farm wagons and was Fairfield’s largest employer in the early 1900s.
Two barns were built in 1910 and were designed by the Louden Barn Design Division, a farm-equipment manufacturer headquartered in Fairfield. The barns employed what was then a state-of-the-art construction method: poured concrete walls.
In 2005, the Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee was formed to oversee the restoration of the farmstead and to open it to visitors. In 2009, a period-correct house was moved to the property to serve as a visitors center and museum.