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"Crib in Crisis Encounter" by Rob Sunderman

Artist Bio:


Rob Sunderman graduated from the University of Iowa with a BFA, MA and MFA in Fine Art. He is a Scenic Designer, Scenic Artist, Fine Artist and Associate Professor Emeritus of Theatre. He was the Resident Scenic Designer/Scenic Artist and Associate Professor of Theatre Design at Iowa State University for 21 years. Prior to his work at ISU, he was the Scenic Designer at Iowa Public Television for 16 years. He has designed and scenic painted over 280 shows during his career. Rob has received Iowa Film, National Broadcasting Designers, and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival awards for his scenic designs, and many Fine Art awards. He is also a fine artist that has exhibited his work in over 250 local, national and international exhibitions.

Artist Statement: 

What a journey we are all on. We are faced with uncertainty and a changing environmental world. My art piece called “Crib in Crisis Encounter” is an environmental statement about the changes we are going to encounter, reflect upon…then take action by encouraging planning and adaptation. It has multiple levels of meaning and interpretation. The premise is taking an iconic rural object/tool that is in decline and using it as a vehicle of thought, reflection and then renewal/planning/action. It is the grain storage building that we see across the rural areas of the Midwest that are no longer used for their original purpose or even not used at all. The idea is repurposing a rural icon and using it to collect/store the ideas of how we can as individuals, groups and community create a much better sustainable world.


The piece is about how we as individuals can help balance out the so out of balance environmental issues we as humans have created. It is a piece that is both interactive/immersive, evolving and changing depending on the response to it. I have always been interested in the agricultural crib structure out there alone and abandoned for the most part. Many times, these structures have trees growing out of them. They are being slowly recycled by the elements. I see the tree structure growing out of them and think of new life and a new beginning. A sign of hope and renewal. Reconstruction of the old ways of thinking and habits are so important. I ask how can we correct the path we are on and create a new way of thinking? This structure is meant to be used as a billboard, living art piece that changes from the feedback I receive from the people that encounter it through observation and then creative reaction. It is a structure about giving and taking in a world that is taking way too much and not giving back. I ask what you, as a citizen of this planet, can give to help create a world on the mend in which we live in harmony with our environment as opposed to destroying it?

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