Credit Line: Bronze casting funded by the Iowa Art in State Buildings Program for the Palmer Building. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
A chain of children dance and play around the periphery of this work of art, first sculpted in clay in 1938. Petersen placed his youngest daughter, Mary, as a curly headed playful two year old, dancing among the other children. The fountain was originally proposed by Petersen to be a drinking fountain at Brookeside Park in Ames, IA, but due to the lack of funding from the City of Ames the fountain was not cast in bronze at the time of its creation. The plaster fountain remained located in Petersen's studio throughout his career at Iowa State. Following his death, and after failing to be sold in a 1964 public sale, the fountain was placed in storage at the Communications Building. In 1983, the college of Family and Consumer Sciences, with assistance from Beverly Madden, located and purchased the plaster fountain from Petersen's daughter, Mary. In 1999, the decision was made to cast the original plaster fountain in bronze for the new Palmer Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Building.
The plaster sculpture was badly damaged over the year and during a visit to Iowa State to conserve several other Petersen sculptures, conservator Fancis Miller, from conservation technical associates, repaired the sculpture in preparation for bronze casting. In may of 2000 two separate bronze fountains were cast at J.A.M. Studios in Blaine, MN. One was placed at the Palmer HDFS playground and the second at Reiman Gardens.
One June 8, 2001, University Museums staff and members along with Curators Associates, Iowa State Alumni from the Class of 1951, and the College of Family and consumer sciences dedicated the Joy fountain. Remarks were given by Dean Carol Meeks of Family and Consumer Sciences; Lynette Pohlman, University Museums Director; Carol Grant, Curators Associate; Beverly Madden, Curators Associate; and ISU President Gregory Geoffrey. Beverly Madden told the story of how she volunteered to search the third floor storage room of the WOI building, for the plaster sculpture of Joy: "I literally stepped over the models of fallen soldiers to get to the fountain. I was struck by the artist's distress with war and its casualties... and there, in stark contrast, was a symbol of hope for the future - children playing."
Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961) emigrated from Denmark. As a young man, Petersen went to the Newark Technical School to study die cutting. In 1920, he became the apprentice of Boston artist Henry Hudson Kiston, who trained Petersen in a narrative and symbolic sculptural style, often used for historic monuments. In the aftermath of World War I, demand for such specialized styles were high. In 1928, Petersen moved to the Midwest with the regionalist notion that it was becoming the cultural center of the United States. He settled in Chicago, with the intent of pursuing sculptural commissions full-time. The crippling blow of the Great Depression necessitated his return to commercial die cutting. By the 1940s, Petersen had moved again, this time to Iowa State University at the request of Grant Wood. There, Petersen began his legendary 21-year tenure as one of the University's most revered professors and the nation's first permanent artist-in-residence. In 1955, Petersen retired, but left a legacy of signature sculptures; the nucleus of Iowa State's expansive public art collection.