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Breaking Barriers, 2022

Published onDec 12, 2022
Breaking Barriers, 2022

George Trice, cousin of Jack Trice, is the first to walk through the sculpture during the dedication, Nov. 2022. Image by Christopher Gannon.

Breaking Barriers, 2022
by Ivan Toth Depeña (American, b. 1972)

Solid Cast Stone Concrete and bronze, fabricated from American Artstone in New Ulm, MN

12 x 12 x 12 foot

Approximately 200,000 lbs.

The Breaking Barriers acquisition is made possible by the University Museums through the Joyce Tomlinson Brewer Fund for Art Acquisition; Office of the President; the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and Iowa State University Athletics Department.

Bronze cleat prints in the Albaugh Family Plaza floor leading up to an Artstone portal in the form of offensive lineman Trice. A large white cast stone that has been fractured is the focal point of the installation, depicting the figure of Jack Trice in the negative space, having run through and broken the barrier. Representing the societal limitations that Trice and so many others have worked to break down, the large stone is split in two sections allowing future generations to follow in Jack’s footsteps migrating through their own barriers. Trice’s footprints are leading the viewer past the barrier, out into the world, serving as an inspiration to carry on the legacy of Trice into the future.

The artist inspects the installation progress, Oct. 2022.

Visitors are welcome to walk through the sculpture following in Jack's footsteps


University Museums at Iowa State University commissioned public artist Depeña to create this sculpture as part of the Art on Campus Collection. Depeña worked over several years with a public art committee from concept to finalization to ensure this work of art memorializes Jack Trice. This Art on Campus committee includes representatives from ISU Athletics, University Museums, the ISU Alumni Association, an ISU Student representative, Facilities Planning and Management, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the University Museums Advisory Committee.  Members included: Dr. Amy Kaleita, chair; Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, Chris Jorgensen, Steve Malchow, Reginald Stewart, Marie Beecham, Sydney Marshall, Jon Harvey, and Lynette Pohlman.   Some of these representatives went on to serve on the Jack Trice Commemoration Committee.

Public Art Statement – by the Art on Campus, Jack Trice Committee

Jack Trice Tribute, May 29, 2020

By all accounts, Jack Trice was an exceptional student and a skilled athlete. In the pocket of a jacket he wore before his first game, was a note he had written to himself: “My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life: The honor of my race, family & self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will.” Jack Trice, the first Black student athlete at Iowa State, died two days later on October 8,1923 as a result of injuries sustained on the football field during that game.

At the time that Jack enrolled at Iowa State, only a handful of African Americans attended Iowa State, in a state in which less than one percent of the population was Black. Nationally, only a few African Americans played collegiate football at that time, with many schools having policies - formal or informal - against integrated teams. Jack was mindful of the risks, but also committed to rising to and above the challenges before him. “My whole body & and soul are to be thrown recklessly about on the field tomorrow,” he wrote. “Every time the ball is snapped I will be trying to do more than my part.” Jack Trice had overcome substantial odds to don the Iowa State uniform.

Jack Trice has been seen as both a hero and as a victim, and his story is one that remains relevant today. The legacy of Jack Trice is at once that of a yet-unrealized dream and an unfulfilled promise, as well as a call to the same bravery and conviction he showed. It is a legacy for our student athletes, for our students of color, for our institution, and for all members of the Iowa State community who make sacrifices to pursue their dreams against difficult circumstances.

Artist’s Statement on Breaking Barriers

It is an honor to be able to work with Iowa State University on a project that embodies this level of responsibility and social implication. We are living through a paradigm shift in our country. A permanent installation such as the Jack Trice memorial plays a pivotal role in these changes by increasing the awareness of a significant, historical event imbued by actions surrounding racial injustice. On a monumental scale, the sculpture intends to invoke the spirit of perseverance, memory/reflection and subsequent contemplation regarding our current state of unrest surrounding the subject of inequality.

The central monument consists of a large scale, white volume which has been fractured and broken through by the visage of Jack Trice. The interior, three-dimensional silhouette is large enough to encourage the viewer to pass through and experience the visual complexity that represents breaking the imposing barrier. Special attention has been paid to the material’s color, shape and texture to reference the underlying conceptual intent. On the outside of the sculpture, appear bronze cleat castings, shown in Trice’s defensive player stride fading away from the field and reflecting on his absence. In addition, there are two benches split by Trice’s symbolic wake. Made from the same material as the sculpture, the benches encourage contemplation on the past, present and the future surrounding Trice’s struggle and legacy.

The compassion and loyalty that the memory of Jack Trice has received by the students, faculty and staff at Iowa State University following his passing is deeply inspiring. Demonstrating a community coming together, over the course of 100 years, to memorialize a fateful moment for an African American citizen in order to commemorate and encourage thoughtfulness towards an important topic in today’s society. I am very proud to be participating in this collaborative effort led by Iowa State University.

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