Spread the news: UIU to unveil Butter Peacock at State Fair

First-time butter sculptors (l-r) associate professor of art Elissa Wenthe and senior art education major Meghan Kleitsch churned out UIU’s Butter Peacock in five hours. The sculpture will be officially unveiled in the University’s Iowa State Fair booth, located in the Varied Industries Building, on Thursday, August 8.

Move over Butter Cow, Upper Iowa University has churned out a new piece of creamy yellow artwork for the Iowa State Fair. After migrating 170-miles from Fayette Campus to Des Moines, UIU’s Butter Peacock arrived safely Wednesday, July 31, in the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Associate professor of art Elissa Wenthe begins applying the softened butter to the Butter Peacock frame.

Creativity and independence are cornerstones of UIU’s art program, where faculty members actively lead, motivate and support students to be goal-driven in their education, artistic pursuits and careers. The Butter Peacock took “creativity” to an entirely new level for its sculptors, UIU associate professor of art Elissa Wenthe and senior art education major Meghan Kleitsch.

The two first-time butter sculptors assembled a wood, plastic, cloth and steel mesh frame depicting the peacock sitting upon a pedestal, before bringing approximately 50 lbs. of butter to room temperature for the project. When the butter had reached the desired consistency, the artists entered a 38-degree cooler to complete their work.

Senior art education major Meghan Kleitsch of Fairbank, Iowa, touches up a portion of UIU’s Butter peacock.

Over a five-hour span, the sculptors applied and molded layers of the dairy substance until the 44-inch tall piece of artwork was completed. Both artists acknowledged the experience was very similar to working with clay.

“I thought everything worked out great, but I quickly discovered I do not like working in a cooler,” said Wenthe, who suggested the idea for a buttered version of the Upper Iowa mascot after the completion of last year’s State Fair.

“I am always excited to trying new things artistically,” added Kleitsch, who is from Fairbank, Iowa. “The biggest challenge for me was working with a substance that melts and becomes greasy in your hands.”

Trying to keep handling at a minimum, Wenthe noted that transportation remained her biggest concern throughout the project. Needless to say, she was relieved when the artwork was safely unloaded and set up in the UIU fair booth Wednesday, July 31. Wenthe provided final touchups to the Butter Peacock Monday, August 5, before its official unveiling Thursday, August 8.

On behalf of Upper Iowa University, Wenthe expressed appreciation for those who made generous donations that made the Butter Peacock possible: Prairie Farms (butter), Coca Cola Atlantic Bottling Company (exhibit refrigeration) and Country View Dairy (transportation).

With the Butter Peacock safely aboard, a truck and driver provided by Country View Dairy of Hawkeye, Iowa, leaves the loading dock at Fayette Campus for the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.


The Butter Peacock will be joined by faculty, staff and alumni who operate UIU’s information booth from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each fair day in the Varied Industries Building.  The public is invited to see the Butter Peacock, learn more about UIU, register for free tuition and classes, and purchase Peacock apparel and merchandise. Alumni may also stop by and update their contact information to receive a free gift.

Official rules for the State Fair special drawings and Pete the Peacock’s scheduled appearances can be found at uiu.edu/about/iowa-state-fair.html.

A video featuring the creation of the Butter Peacock can be viewed at  www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJjGZJV64h4.

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