Ten years ago, Iowa City and Coralville found themselves part of a public art parade. Herky the Hawk—striding forward, pumping a fist, with looks ranging from Elvis Presley to Hayden Fry—took up roost in several dozen locations around the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and Coralville.
Herky on Parade
After you read this story about our fabulous alumni artists, get the lowdown on the 2014 iteration of this popular public art project, 10 years after the success of the initial run.
Fast forward to today. Herky on Parade is back for a second run, kicking off this morning with unveilings throughout the Iowa City/Coralville area (along with new locations in North Liberty). The statues will be on display through September; when the “parade” comes to a conclusion, the Herkys will be auctioned off to support United Way of Johnson County.
Herky’s pose this time around is tall and triumphant—a reflection of sorts of the pride felt by the 16 UI alumni who participated in the creation of this year’s Herky statues.
“Herky on Parade is the success it is because it brings together the town and gown communities,” says Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It was widely successful in 2004 and no doubt will be again in 2014 only because of the artists. Many are UI grads so they really go the extra mile to do both their community AND fellow alumni proud.”
Nine Herkys from Ash
Cody Ash, a UI alumnus who works at a branding agency in Denver, devoted some time to this year’s Herky on Parade. He was busy, to be sure: his designs were applied to no fewer than nine of the 83 Herky statues. Several of his Herkys deal with athletics (Hayden Herky, Wrestler Herky, Referee Herky), but Ash’s artistic background is represented in his Andy Warhawk (a play on Andy Warhol) and the partially masked Herky of the Opera.
“I follow Hawkeye sports from Colorado, so to be able to have some direct involvement in something like this is special to me—it's like I was invited to contribute to a special reunion,” says Ash, who received a degree from the School of Art and Art History in 2001. “It's a great opportunity to work on a project with so much visibility, and contribute to something that is fun for the community and brings attention to the school and athletics.”
When Schamberger said alumni go the extra mile, he certainly meant it literally in Ash’s case. Ash returned to Iowa for a week, working around the clock with a team of painters and seamstresses to complete the first four statues (some of the athletics-themed statues were unveiled in December). They created oversized baseball hats and converted existing wrestling headgear and a radio headset to fit Herky’s new head.
Ash’s last five Herkys road-tripped via POD container to Ash’s Denver residence; after completion, they were put back in the POD and sent back to Iowa.
Ash’s favorite creation, Wrestler Herky, received expert assistance. “Dan Gable helped me tape Wrestler Herky’s wrists,” says Ash. “I'm a big wrestling fan. Meeting Gable, having him add the finishing touches, that was fantastic.”
Alumna answers the Herky design puzzle
Anne Jacobs Johnson received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology (criminal justice emphasis) from the University of Iowa in 1979; with a daughter at the UI and three teens at home, she returned to college, receiving a master’s degree in pastoral ministry.
But she’s been an independent student of art throughout her life.
A self-taught artist who also has benefited from classes taught locally by professional artists, Johnson’s concentration is multimedia, 3D art using a wide variety of materials from paint and textiles to clay, natural fibers, metal fastenings, and found objects. “The support and components that come together in a piece inform and develop the concept or theme as it evolves,” she says.
A local artist friend encouraged Johnson to participate in Herky on Parade. “Being an alumna, I was intrigued by the challenge to address and complement the integrity of the iconic piece and determine the materials and processes that would answer the design puzzle for both Uncle Herky and Graduation Herky,” Johnson says. “I had not worked on that scale before! I stepped into the challenge after the themes had been determined, but had to respond with my creative view.”
Johnson’s 3D leanings provided great enjoyment in the structural challenge of determining the composition of the garments, particularly the creative challenge of the hair and the hats for both pieces. Johnson spent six weeks taking the two figures took from start of design and patterns to completion in structure and sealing.
“As an alumna it is simply fun to be involved in an art project connected to the university,” Johnson says. “My first date with my husband, Scott—also an Iowa alum—was an Iowa football game. And we have enjoyed basketball at Carver-Hawkeye Arena since it opened. All four of our young adult children and our daughter-in-law are now UI alumni as well. I am invested as a stakeholder and a fan, and I’m happy to be involved!”
A return engagement
Herky on Parade 2014 isn’t Jason Soliday’s first rodeo.
Soliday, a former Hawkeye football player who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the UI in 1992, worked on statues for the original Herky on Parade in 2004. (One of his works, Football Highlight Herky, was purchased by fellow UI alumnus and Cedar Rapids car dealership owner Pat McGrath.) Based on the success of his original work, Soliday was asked to tackle Wrestling Highlight Herky this time around.
“It’s an honor just to be selected as an artist,” says Soliday, who has taught art at East High School in Des Moines for six years (and in the Des Moines system for 20 years). “To be an alumnus and a former student-athlete, it makes it that much more rewarding to do it.”
Wrestling Highlight Herky, which features a prominent portrait of Dan Gable along with several other standout wrestlers from the storied UI program, is one of three Herkys that Soliday worked on this year. The second is UNESCO Herky, a more straightforward Herky complete with some suggested reading materials; the third is called C(Herk)itry, which looks like a motherboard…albeit it one with a face.
“The C(Herk)itry idea came out of a discussion I had with Kartik Reddy, the sponsor for that particular Herky,” Soliday says. “He wanted something that was representational of what his father does. The Herky is meant to be a tribute to Kartik’s father, Sudhakar, who teaches at UI.
“I wanted it to look like a circuit board,” Soliday continues. “The front image is his father’s face, but Kartik didn’t want it to be truly identifiable because he felt that his father would take offense to what could be perceived as bravado.”
Horror-based Herky! (But it’s not really scary)
April Kelly teaches art at Kate Wickham and Horace Mann Elementary Schools in Iowa City. Her students know that she contributed to this year’s Herky on Parade, but they were not told what the theme of Kelly’s statue is.
They might be too young to understand the Children of the Corn reference, anyway. But no fear: Herky of the Corn is perfectly harmless for people of all ages.
Herky of the Corn came from a brainstorming session Kelly did with her husband, Jim (himself a veteran of the 2004 Herky on Parade). “We played on the Children of the Corn title but we did not want our Herky to be scary,” says Kelly, who received a Bachelor of Arts in studio art and art education from the UI in 2001. “We wanted Herky of the Corn to look like a real piece of corn with the husks peeled back a bit, without losing Herky and his details.”
The Kellys cut each corn kernel from upholstery foam and then painted them. The husks are made out of wire and muslin fabric, which were then painted. Once all the kernels were on Herky and the husks were attached they applied several layers of fiberglass resin to protect and harden the kernels.
Herky of the Corn was going to live in the Kelly garage, but the brutal cold of our last winter wreaked havoc on some of the adhesives. Inside the house he went, becoming part of the family. “Our children were also part of this process since Herky lived in our family room for several weeks,” Kelly says. “It was exciting to hear and see their excitement as Herky came to life. They were a bit sad to see him go.”
The Kelly family’s loss is the public’s gain, but Kelly is cool with that.
“Making art for public viewing is always an exciting thing to take part in,” says Kelly, who also participated in the BookMarks project in 2011, creating Alice In Wonderland. “This was an exciting project, and I enjoyed working on such a large scale.”