Hancher Auditorium unveils new outdoor sculptures

Hancher Auditorium unveiled a thirty-piece outdoor art installation on Friday, designed and created by artist Colette Hosmer. The granite fish sculptures were made to tell the story of Hancher and all of the actors and performers that have come through the auditorium.

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Jeff Sigmund

The Wellspring sculpture at Hancher Auditorium is seen on Friday, Sept.25.

Dani Hopkins, Arts Reporter


On a bright sunny morning, Santa Fe-based artist Colette Hosmer and Hancher Auditorium’s Executive Director, Chuck Swanson, unveiled a new art installation, titled “Wellspring,” on Sept. 25. 

Composed of thirty granite fish splashing up from the ground, the installation can be seen outside of the cantilever of Hancher. At the unveiling, Hosmer and Swanson stated that the fish sculptures are representative of the creativity of Iowa City residents and how Hancher and other forms of art overflow into the city and community. 

The granite sculptures weigh 530 pounds each, and will later be named by students from area school districts who visit Hancher with their classes. 

At the unveiling, Iowa City author Tess Weaver and illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt discussed the children’s book, Fishtastic, they made based on the sculptures. Their book will be released in April. 

Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson speaks with Sculptor/Artist Colette Hosmer about her creation Wellspring during it’s unveiling at Hancher Auditorium on Friday Sept. 25. (Jeff Sigmund)

Swanson and his wife were introduced to Hosmer’s work through her installation Current, which is located outside the Santa Fe cultural center. Following his visit, Swanson decided to reach out to the artist after a donation by David and Noreen Revier was given to the auditorium to create a new sculpture.

After Hosmer and her daughter, who also acts as her agent, were contacted, the duo made a visit to Iowa City early last year to experience Hancher for themselves. The pair recalled how in awe they were of Hancher’s atmosphere and the creativity and showmanship it offered. 

“After two days at Hancher, meeting so many incredible people and enjoying a performance, I was just absorbing the energy and enthusiasm of Hancher,” Hosmer said. “You can’t make this kind of energy happen intentionally that I found here at Hancher.” 

Sitting in the front row of the auditorium while watching Rent, Hosmer came up with an idea for the kind of art she should create for Hancher. It occurred to her, in her belief, that Hancher was the beginning of endless creativity in Iowa City. 

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Hosmer noted that creating the granite fish was not an easy task. First, she made a miniature mold out of clay to design and get a feel for what she wanted the fish to look like. After she perfected her design, the artist made a mold out of plaster. 

Hosmer took her mold and traveled to China to work with Chinese granite sculptors in order to create the pieces of the installation. The miniature molds of the fish had to be rescaled to their true size in the process.

Hosmer said she felt fortunate that her work in China was almost completed when she was forced to come back to the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosmer said that as a result of the pandemic, she was thrust into the world of FaceTime and Zoom, where she received virtual updates and feedback on the sculptures from China. 

Swanson said an official ceremony for the sculptures will be held at a later date in order to recognize the work done by the Chinese sculptors.

For Swanson, the Wellspring sculptures provide a needed sense of optimism during these unprecedented times. 

“My story starts with Wellspring being a source of joy, well-being, and connections, something that is very needed in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. 

Hosmer said her artwork reflects her feelings about Hancher.  

“Art should be viewed in person and upfront and that was how I felt with Hancher,” Hosmer said. “Being down on the ground for two days I am overjoyed to have been given this opportunity.” 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to with the correct name of the illustrator of Fishtastic. It is Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not Jennifer Black. The DI regrets the error.

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