Iowa State University

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Priscilla Sage, (218) 224-2389,

Mark Engelbrecht, Dean, College of Design, (515) 294-7428

Heather Sauer, College of Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4478,

Priscilla Sage

Textile artist Priscilla Sage will receive the 2008 Christian Petersen Design Award from the College of Design. Photo courtesy of Mary McAlister.

Textile artist Priscilla Sage to receive ISU College of Design's Christian Petersen award

AMES, Iowa -- Priscilla Sage, associate professor emerita of art and design, is the recipient of the 2008 Christian Petersen Design Award presented by Iowa State's College of Design.

Sage, of Ames, will be honored during the college's annual welcome reception, Monday, Aug. 25, at the Brunnier Art Museum. The reception is from 6 to 8 p.m., with the award presentation at 6:30 p.m. The event will kick off the college's 30th anniversary celebration.

Established in 1980, the Petersen award is given annually to alumni, staff and friends of the university for contributions to the advancement of design. It is named for the noted artist who was Iowa State's sculptor-in-residence from 1934 to 1955.

Sage was on the art and design faculty at Iowa State from 1984 to 2000, and taught at Drake University for the previous 18 years. She earned a bachelor's degree in art from Pennsylvania State University and a master of fine art degree from Drake. Since her retirement, Sage and her husband, Charles, have divided their time between homes in Iowa and Minnesota.

"In both Ames and northern Minnesota I have a studio, so I spend about five hours a day in the studio. My work has been developing and changing," Sage said. "My great pleasure in life is going into my studio and working! The difference [since retiring] is now I have time to read and to think about other things besides teaching, although I loved doing that."

Sage has spent the past 50 years pushing the boundaries of textile and fiber media into the realm of sculpture and fine art. Her work expresses essential relationships between humans and nature, embodying and expanding upon the patterns and forms found in natural objects. She has been influenced by the cultures and landscapes of India, Ghana and Japan, and has drawn upon experiences from her visits to these countries, but her work is not dominated by any single aesthetic.

"My work involves shape and color and texture; because it's not narrative, I can't specifically define how [culture] affects my work, although I know certainly from my Japanese experience that I'm influenced by that aesthetic," Sage said.

"But I don't sit down and think: 'Now I'm going to design something influenced by this aesthetic.' As your mind sifts through the ideas, they become part of your work, even if it's not conscious or intentional," she said.

Sage continues to derive her creative inspiration from the process of working itself. "You can't accomplish anything unless you work. It takes a lot of practice and failure to get to the good things. I have been very fortunate over my life to be able to work continuously without any gaps. One sculpture, one idea leads to the next in a slow, experimental process."

Sage's free-hanging fabric sculptures have been exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and around the world. Her work appears in the permanent collections of colleges and universities, hospitals, churches and corporate office buildings.

Her first big commission in 1978--a 12-foot-long spiral sculpture for the lobby of the Hoover State Office Building in Des Moines--was also the first project funded by the Iowa Art in State Buildings program. She completed a commission for the ISU College of Human Sciences in 2007, and her work hangs in the Jischke Honors Building, the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union and the dean's suite in the College of Business.

Closely following her recognition by the College of Design, Sage will enjoy the opening of a retrospective exhibition. "Priscilla Sage: Fifty Years of Sculpting, 1958-2008" will be on view at the Brunnier Museum from Aug. 26, 2008, through Jan. 5, 2009.

Guests at the award reception will get a first look at the exhibition. An accompanying book by the same name examines the Pennsylvania-born artist's early career and illustrates her evolution to fine art sculptor, teacher and mentor and how these developments led her to the Midwest and Iowa State University.

"Over the course of my career my materials have changed, my ideas have changed, but I think you can see continuity in it. I think in the book and the exhibition you will be able to see those small steps," Sage said.


Quick look

The College of Design will award the 2008 Christian Petersen Design Award to textile artist Priscilla Sage, who taught at ISU from 1984 to 2000. She will be honored during the college's annual welcome reception, 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, at the Brunnier Art Museum. A retrospective exhibition of Sage's work, "Priscilla Sage: Fifty Years of Sculpting, 1958-2008,"will be at the Brunnier from Aug. 26, 2008, through Jan. 5, 2009.


"Over the course of my career my materials have changed, my ideas have changed, but I think you can see continuity in it.""

Priscilla Sage
Associate professor emerita of art and design