Plains Aurora

Art Type
Media / Materials
Year Completed
Commissioned by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Latitude & Longitude
41.590443, -93.609398
Location Description
Integrated into the upper plaza of the Iowa State Historical Building at the northeast corner of East 6th Street and east Locust Street in Des Moines.

Plains Aurora

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Cork Marcheschi, currently living in San Francisco, CA, was commissioned in 1986 to create “Plains Aurora” for the State Historical Building. The Historical Building is located near the Iowa State Capitol on the east end of downtown Des Moines (today known as the Historic East Village). “Plains Aurora,” a 32-foot sculpture, is made of sandblasted glass blocks on the exterior, contains circular neon lights, visible after dark, that change colors to reveal subtle patterns and hues.

“Plains Aurora” initially suffered from a number of condition issues and ultimately was restored. The light sculpture’s repair and restoration was funded with private dollars from the Herrick Trust, a private contribution that fueled the fundraising campaign for construction of the State Historical Building.


Marcheschi’s fascination with light and energy stems from his interest in electrical systems and how they are put to use, particularly in popular culture. According to the artist, who grew up in California, “I was deeply affected by hot rods, rock and roll and Nikola Tesla, the engineer and visionary who gave us alternating current and harnessed the power of Niagara Falls.”

Cork Marcheschi