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Preparatory Studies for "River of Milk"

Who Am I? Exhibition

Published onAug 25, 2020
Preparatory Studies for "River of Milk"

Study for River of Milk, 2007
Michaela Mahady (American, b. 1951)
Pencil on paper
Gift of the artist. In the Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquettes Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Preparatory Study for River of Milk, 2007
Michaela Mahady (American, b. 1951)
Pencil on paper
Gift of Michaela Mahady and John Pietras of Pegasus Studio. In the Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquette Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Public Art Philosophy Statement

The mission of the new Dairy/Animal Science Education and Discovery Facility is to encourage visitors and participants to experience the excitement of discovery generated from the research dedicated to the enhancement of the diary industry through teaching and outreach for the benefit of the consumer of the products and the well-being of the animals while generating a profit for the producer.  To this, the mission of the pubic art in this facility is dedicated.

Dairy Art in State Building Public Art Philosophy Statement, 2005

Committee Members:
Diane Moody
Maynard Hogberg
Richard Willham
Don Beitz
Lynette Pohlman
Diane Spurlock
Jennifer Taylor


The dairy industry has changed significantly as it moved from a few cows kept on farms to provide milk for mostly home consumption to larger farms where milk is produced for a large number of consumers.  Early years in the industry relied on the husbandry skills of the stockman to manage the cows in an appropriate manner. Application of science and technology has greatly impacted the changes in how milk is produced today resulting in a product that is safe, wholesome and more efficient to produce thus providing consumers with affordable products of milk, cheese, yogurt and butter.

Across the top of the etched glass mural of which these works of art are studies for, are the seven breeds of dairy cattle common to the United States grazing on pastures. Dairy cattle have the unique ability to convert grass into the highly digestible food, milk. Utilizing a feedstuff that is not very digestible to humans and converting it to an important protein source has made milk a staple part of the human diet. At the base of the mural is the word “milk” etched in stone in 27 languages emphasizing the global demand for milk. Throughout the world milk has been one of the staple, international foods common to all countries in providing nutrients of protein, calcium and energy to the human diet.

The left side of the mural depicts the husbandry aspects of the past where stockmanship was important and the product was shipped in milk cans as shown. Proper animal care was extremely important and great emphasis was placed on making sure animals were comfortable and well cared for. This is still true today as dairy producers know that animals that are well cared for and comfortable will produce more milk. The right side of the mural shows the impact where science has contributed to the dairy industry. Dairy genetics, as symbolized by the DNA helix, has significantly improved the efficiency of milk production. So much of this improvement in genetics came about with the application of artificial insemination as depicted by the tank of liquid nitrogen which is used to store semen. The discovery of artificial insemination gave the dairy industry access to the highest performance tested bulls to be used in the breeding program of each farm. The symbol of the scientist in a laboratory coat, standing on a stack of books, emphasizes how important science has been contributing to the improvement in nutrition, genetic selection, animal health and reproduction in the dairy cow. The bridge between the past and present dairy industry brings the two rivers of milk together in a single stream of milk.

The Iowa State University Dairy Farm, located in south Ames, is the catalyst in teaching and research to blend the husbandry skills from the past with the science to make a system of milk production that will serve mankind. Through this blending of the past with the science of today and tomorrow we can improve the safety, wholesomeness and efficiency of milk production to the consumer and also improve the well-being of the dairy cow.   

Dr. Maynard Hogberg
Professor Emeritus, Animal Science


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