The Coe campus features six outdoor sculptures.
Situated between two pillars on the portico of the Stewart Memorial Library is Food for Thought, a life size bronze of a young man intently reading a book while eating a hamburger. Created by noted American sculptor, J. Seward Johnson, Jr., it is a gift of Carl and Doris McClain, and was dedicated on September 3, 1999. The bronze is highly realistic down to the lettuce leaf on the sandwich, and the book is open to chapter 8 of Frank Conroy's Stop-Time.
In time of Awakening, dedicated May 20,1989, is a sculpture garden by Dann Nardi, an Illinois sculptor. It is a ground-hugging, elliptical brick-colored work, 90 feet in length and eight feet tall at its highest point. Cast in concrete in front of the library, it invites interaction from passers-by. It was a gift to the college by Stevan and Margaret Smith, to commemorate the expanded and renovated Stewart Memorial Library and Galleries. Mr. Nardi said, "I hope students will enjoy sitting here and maybe one of them will wonder about art and question what it is."
Three Cubes, 1975, by Alfred F. Anderson, class of 1967 was presented to the College by the artist and a former student in memory of Isabelle Biddick Winkrantz, class of 1925. Mr. Anderson did the original design for Three Cubes when he was a student at Coe College. It is a mobile piece of Corten steel. The lines are simple and straightforward, complementing the architectural design of Gage Union.
Family Group II, by Gene Anderson, an Iowa City sculptor, is an anonymous gift to the College. It was installed in 1994 in the west garden below the main entrance to Gage Memorial Union and can be viewed through the south windows of the student cafeteria. It is an abstract of the human torso cast in three stones. A popular work with students, it has been dressed in many outfits since its installation.
The Return, 1979, by Kristen McClintock, was made possible by gifts from John Ely, Jr. '41 and his employer, Quaker Oats Company. The sculpture is made of white Colorado Yule marble and two colors of Tennessee marble: blue-green with ocher veins and black with white veins. Ms. McClintock said, "The Return is reminiscent of classical antiquity," and she believes both the form and the material gives people a sense of their origins.
Facing First Avenue with Dows Fine Arts as its backdrop is the 1974 sculpture honoring Marvin Cone, graduate, painter and Coe faculty member, and Isaac B. Smith, graduate of Coe Academy and member of the Board of Trustees (1912-1941). It is a gift of Edmund Whiting, the sculptor, and Stevan and Margaret Smith. Mr. Whiting served as chair of the art department. The piece is made of tubular copper and stands 14 feet high, 12 feet wide, and is 42 inches in depth. Mr. Whiting said the inspiration for the design came from the pattern which reticulated cerite makes in a mineral. The lead oxide is in thin strings in repeating patterns with 60-degree angles. He said he chose this theme to reflect the modern lines of the Dows Fine Arts Building. The plaque reads in part:
There can be no greater honor to a man than to let his work be the tribute to his life. Let the paintings of Marvin Cone stand as his memorial as an artist needs no other. Let this sculpture be a tribute to Marvin Cone the man, and the teacher. Let it also express my thanks for an inspiring friendship. ~Edmund Whiting.