Commemorating a century
The year-long centennial celebration for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) culminates this week with the dedication of a bronze sculpture titled “Timeless Values.”
Farm Bureau commissioned Iowa artist Nick Klepinger to create the sculpture to immortalize the dedication, persistence and vision of Farm Bureau members who started Farm Bureau 100 years ago, all of those who have built the organization over the decades, and those who help make it into the thriving organization it is today, said Tim Niess, Iowa Farm Bureau historian.
The sculpture, which was unveiled in early December at the IFBF annual meeting, will be mounted in the atrium of the Iowa Farm Bureau headquarters in West Des Moines on Dec. 27, the actual 100th anniversary of the first IFBF meeting. The 7-foot-tall sculpture may eventually be moved to a specially designed setting on the Iowa Farm Bureau grounds.
The committee in charge of planning the IFBF centennial celebration, along with the IFBF Board of Directors, determined that a sculpture was a perfect way to celebrate organization’s first 100 years. “At Farm Bureau, we are all about the grassroots, and we wanted to honor farmers’ work and sacrifice over the years,” Niess said.
The centennial committee chose Klepinger, who lives in rural Jasper County near Reasnor, because of his ability to create sculptures that closely depict real life, Niess said. “We looked at his work in Newton, Pella and other places and knew he was who we wanted."
Klepinger, who was raised in Chariton before his family moved to Oregon when he was a teenager, suggested the Farm Bureau sculpture to depict a typical Iowa farm family in 1918 and did hours of research to get the details right. “I wanted the sculpture to show the hard, physical work that farming was in those days,” Klepinger said. “I didn’t want the man’s overalls to look like they were new ones from Sears, and I wanted the woman’s dress to look like one a farm wife would have worn then.”
At the same time, the self-taught artist said, he wanted to depict the vision of early Farm Bureau members as farmers who worked the land and created a very successful and enduring farm organization. “That’s why I like the pose of the man looking off into the distance as a glance into the future."
In an 1890s barn, that serves as his studio, Klepinger created several small models for the sculpture for the IFBF centennial committee and the board.
Adding special touches
Once the leaders chose the final model, the artist went to work creating a full-sized sculpture from oil-based clay. It was then he added little touches, like a family dog modeled after his own dog Bailee and a slingshot in the boy’s back pocket, to give the sculpture more personality.
When the clay sculpture was complete, Klepinger hauled it west to Colorado for the four-month bronzing process, then brought it back to Iowa. The bronze sculpture, he explained, is cast in dozens of pieces carefully welded back together.
To complete the bronzing process, a patina was applied to both protect the sculpture and give it color. Hollow inside, the sculpture weighs 600 to 700 pounds and is designed to be mounted either inside or outside, Klepinger said.
The "Timeless Values" sculpture, Niess said, will act as an enduring celebration of the farmer members who have made Farm Bureau so successful. “Instead of depicting a certain commodity or a species of livestock, we want to celebrate our members. They really are the reason for Farm Bureau’s enduring success.”