Erasing Hate

With a pandemic-relief grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, artist Ann Brugenhemke hired a woodworker to help with the sculpture’s construction. They made a mock-up with duct tape and papier-mâché before creating the final version with a cable and a ceramic weight in the shape of an upside-down teardrop. Photographer: Buck Christensen Photography.

Writer: Michael Morain, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

It took the wind thousands of years to deposit the soil that forms the ridge of Loess Hills along Iowa’s western border.

The Council Bluffs artist Ann Brugenhemke is moving mountains, too, albeit on a quicker timeline. She’s created a kinetic sculpture with a pendulum that steadily erases the word “hate” written in sand on a gallery floor at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center. At press time, the installation was set to open in October.

“The idea just sort of coalesced from my sketchbook,” she says. “I thought, ‘What’s a way that I can express my feelings about these political movements that are going on right now?’”

The installation is just one example of creative expression at the Hoff Center, a former farm-equipment warehouse, built in 1894, which now houses the American Midwest Ballet, Chanticleer Theater, the Kanesville Symphony Orchestra and a community kitchen for classes and culinary entrepreneurs.

“We have so many wonderful things happening here,” says Danna Kehm, CEO of Pottawattamie Arts, Culture and Entertainment. “It’s on par with any art center you’d see on the coasts.”

The center anchors the South Main Cultural District in the city’s historic Haymarket area, which is steadily transforming into a regional destination. Some of the changes are apparent—a new shop here, a restaurant there—but many are smaller and cumulative, like shifting grains of sand.

An earlier model of Brugenhemke’s sculpture still needed “some refining and finesse,” she says, but she could picture the final version in the gallery. “It will be great to have it up there.”


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