Art Projects

Prairie Cairn

Andy Goldsworthy: Three Cairns is the largest project in the Western Hemisphere by British artist Andy Goldsworthy (born 1956, Cheshire, England). The project spans the continent with permanent and temporary stone markers called “cairns” at sites on the two coasts of America and the Midwest. Two key components of the project in Iowa Prairie Cairn (Midwest temporary cairn) near Grinnell and the Three Cairns (Iowa permanent cairn) at the Des Moines Art Center.

Prairie Cairn, the first component of "Andy Goldsworthy: Three Cairns" to be built, was created in early spring 2001 at Grinnell College’s Conard Environmental Research Area near Kellogg, Iowa. Prairie Cairn was completed before the prairie grass had begun to grow and was hotographed over a period of 18 months to document the sculpture in varied weather conditions. The result is a suite of large-scale panoramic images—now in the collection of the Des Moines Art Center—showing the cairn with varying heights of grass, in snow, and amid flames as the prairie was ubjected to a controlled maintenance burn. Although considered a temporary work, Prairie Cairn should last for decades before eventually succumbing to the effects of the weather.

Roots of Renewal

A 2003 art exhibition focusing on challenges and changes in the Upper Midwest under pressure from new immigrants, new industries, new farming practices, and new attitudes towards the original tallgrass prairie; a collaboration between Grinnell College's Faulconer Gallery and the Center for Prairie Studies.

The Prairie Suite

A suite of 12 original prints by twelve artists, commissioned by the Center for Prairie Studies and completed in 2001, united around the themes of prairie and place.

Iowa's Vanishing Agrarian Landscapes

A collaboration between the Center for Prairie Studies and New Haven, Connecticut, photographer David Ottenstein resulted in thousands of photographs of the changing Iowa countryside.

Prairie Earthworks Project

Earthworks have been a major force in contemporary sculpture since the 1960's. For most artists working within the earthworks tradition, the method of creating a sculpture becomes a part of a process of interpreting their surroundings. As the sculptor works in an area ideas are materialized through the transformation of materials usually found at the site. The setting of a sculpture in the natural landscape provides a different set of references than the gallery or museum. The earthwork cannot be self-referential like a painting or sculpture in gallery or museum can. The earthwork's context is part of its content.

Local Foods Projects

Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance

The Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance (GALFA) works to encourage local institutions and individuals to buy locally-produced food.

Local Foods Co-op

The goal of the Local Foods Co-op is it to support the local economy and sustainable agriculture by providing members of the Grinnell community with access to locally grown food, from fresh vegetables to spices and various kinds of grains. Members can order produce from local farmers on a monthly basis through their website during the school year.

Grinnell Farmer's Market

Grinnell Farmer's Market is held on Thursdays (May 20 - Oct. 29) 3:20 pm - 6:20 pm and on Saturdays (May 22 - Oct. 31) 10 am - noon on 4th Avenue between Broad Street and Park Street. Dozens of vendors sell locally-grown fresh produce, baked goods, honey, jams, plants and flowers, hand-made crafts, and many other items. For more information, contact Sheryl Parmley at the Chamber of Commerce at 641-236-6555.

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a growing international phenomenon that directly connects food producers to consumers. Sometimes known as a “farm share” program, CSAs involve consumers purchasing a share at the start of the growing season and in turn receiving a weekly offering a wide array of local produce, eggs, and sometimes meat and baked goods throughout the growing season. Some CSAs are operated by a single producer while others are “collaborative,” involving more than one producer. Two CSAs currently operate in the community of Grinnell.

  • Compass Plant CSA, established in 1999 and run by Ann Brau, is a collaborative CSA served by growers in the Grinnell area and in Malcom, Iowa. The story of the beginning of the Compass Plant CSA is told in "Joining the Food Revolution in Grinnell," by Professor Jonathan Andelson, director of the Center for Prairie Studies. To learn more about the Compass Plant CSA, contact Ann Brau at lbdunham[at]iowatelecom[dot]net.
  • Grinnell Heritage Farm CSA, owned and operated since 2008 by Andrew and Melissa Dunham, is located on a farm that has been in the family since 1858 and is counted among the oldest family farms in central Iowa. To learn more about Grinnell Heritage Farm CSA, visit

Student Garden

The student garden is an on-campus vegetable garden that allows Grinnell College students to learn about organic gardening and to harvest their own food. It includes nine beds, a greenhouse to extend the growing season, and composting bins for communal use.

Community Garden

The community garden is located in Lake Nyanza Park and is a tool to connect college students and Grinnell community members through gardening. It allows community members of all ages to learn how to garden organically and provides them with a cost-effective and healthy alternative source of food. All of the produce grown in the community garden is distributed to the community through the farmers market and the MICA food pantry.

Regional Food Initiative

Regional Food Initiative, a project undertaken in collaboration with the Iowa Valley RC&D, cultivates connections between food buyers and local food producers. It works to educate institutions about the value of buying locally and to educate producers about the expectations and needs of institutional food buyers.

Slow Food Grinnell

Slow Food Grinnell is a chapter (aka convivium) of Slow Food USA, the US arm of the global Slow Food movement. We're a new and growing group of people interested in exploring and celebrating food that is good, clean, and fair. We aim to do this though meals, tasting events, technique demonstrations, and general celebration of the slow life.

Local Foods Resources

Directory of Grinnell Area Food Producers Who Market Locally is intended to promote a local food system. It provides a listing of area producers and the food they market locally as well as a listing of regional farmer's markets.

Local Food and Grinnell Dining Services: A Group Independent Study Students in this course spent the spring 2006 semester studying the Grinnell College Dining Services program and its relationship to locally grown food.


Grinnell Youth Conservation Corps Program (GYCC)

The Grinnell Youth Conservation Corps program is a summer employment opportunity for local high school students to work on conservation projects at Arbor Lake Park, an 80-acre natural area park in Grinnell. The program is a collaboration of the Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies and the City of Grinnell, with support from Imagine Grinnell.

Outreach - Local Schools

The Center continually seeks ways of connecting people of all ages to the natural landscape of this region. One such way is through partnerships with local schools that create opportunities for kids to learn about prairie and other native habitats.

Pioneer Cemeteries

The Center for Prairie Studies has worked with the Poweshiek County Pioneer Cemetery Commission in planning prairie restoration and maintenance at a pioneer cemetery near Victor. Pioneer cemeteries are some of the best places to look for prairie remnants, prairies that have never been plowed. A pioneer cemetery is a cemetery that has had fewer than 6 burials in the last 50 years. Center staff, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, students with the Grinnell College Environmental Action Group, members of the Poweshiek County Pioneer Cemetery Commission, and Township trustees worked together to restore prairie to the Old Victor Pioneer Cemetery in Poweshiek County.

Poweshiek Skipper Project

The Poweshiek skipper, Oarisma poweshiek, is a small butterfly that was discovered in 1870 in Grinnell, Iowa, by Professor Henry W. Parker and named after the county in which it was found. The Center for Prairie Studies collaborated with butterfly enthusiast Harlan Ratcliff to study the present day distribution of the Poweshiek skipper and explore the possibility of reintroducing the butterfly to Poweshiek County. See Poweshiek Skipper Project for more information.

Iowa River Corridor

In 2005, the Center for Prairie Studies collaborated with the Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development office, Free River Press, and author and publisher Robert Wolf to create The Iowa River Corridor Book: A Subregional Profile from the Amanas to Tama and Toledo. The publication, based on the premise that economic and cultural regionalism offer an alternative to globalization, explores the Iowa River corridor through short essays (many written by Grinnell College students and faculty), photographs (most of them taken by high school students from corridor communities), and an assessment of community assets and needs.

Student Projects

Please visit the historical site to see photos of past student projects.