Dale Eldred (b. Minneapolis, Minnesota 1933; d. Kansas City, Missouri 1993) was an internationally acclaimed sculptor renowned for large-scale sculptures[1] that emphasized both natural and generated light.[2]


The grandson of Finnish immigrant builders, Eldred was raised in Minnesota. Eldred moved to Kansas City in 1959, fresh out of the University of Michigan. Within a year, he was named chairman of the sculpture department of Kansas City Art Institute.

Eldred possessed an imposing physical presence and was a college football fullback. He was known to be resilient in the face of challenge, such as the fire in 1991 that destroyed a studio that contained his library and many valuable artworks.

Eldred chaired the sculpture department at KCAI for 33 years, exerting a powerful influence on thousands of students, including: James Clover, Gary Freeman, Shawn Brixey, Ming Fay, Michael Rees, John E. Buck, and the collaborative couple, (the late) Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler who met at KCAI. He also was the artistic director of Biosphere II, and was a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

Dale Eldred was a victim of the "500-year" flood in the summer of 1993, when the Missouri River inundated parts of Kansas City. He was killed in a fall trying to rescue equipment in his West Bottoms-neighborhood studio.


Eldred's early sculptures were large works in clay. Influenced by the monumental steel sculptures of David Smith and Alexander Calder, he began to work in steel, wood and other materials, creating large sculptures and environments. Examples of these include a sculpture composed of a pair of large cantilevered slabs of wood and steel, placed near the entrance of the Kansas City Art Institute; and a park in northern Kansas City, Missouri housing a large stone and lumber environment. His work of this time was reviewed favorably by critic and artist Donald Judd.

Eldred was commissioned to redesign downtown Kansas City, Kansas. His challenging modernist design included futuristic fountains, irregular streets, and steel curbs. Received poorly, its unpopularity led the city to modify much of his work, but aspects still exist today.

Eldred expressed his desire to reveal natural phenomena. He created a towering sculpture in a Kansas City park that sprayed water in order to create prismatic light refractions. His emphasis increasingly focused on light; he used mirrors, pure pigments, gas flames, fluorescent paint, refraction tape, glass, neon tubes and other materials to create light effects. "I want the sculptures to remind us all," he said, "that our lives are inextricably linked to light, and that our universe is in constant motion."[1]

In collaboration with choreographer Todd Bolender, he created the set and costumes for "Voyager," a ballet performed by the State Ballet of Missouri.

He collaborated with other highly regarded artists and musicians, including composer Philip Glass.

Commissions, Museums and Private CollectionsEdit

United StatesEdit


  • Time/Light Fusion, 1990, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale
  • Time Garden, 1990, Arizona State University, Tempe
  • Vision Lens: Light and Future, 1990, Arizona State University, Tempe


  • Light & Time Labyrinth, 1994 (installed), Auraria Higher Education Center, Denver


  • Solar Time Plane, 1984, Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale
  • Light Abacus I, 1990, Criser Hall, Gainesville
  • Sun Stations, 1983, Coconut Grove Station, Miami
  • Earth and Sky Garden, 1984, University of South Florida, College of Public Health courtyard, Tampa


  • Urban Time and Light Field, 1985, Cermak Plaza Shopping Center, Berwyn


  • Landscape Piece #1, 1965, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines
  • Model for Landscape, 1967, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines


  • Salina Piece, 1969, University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Untitled, 1968, litho, Spencer Gallery of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Untitled, 1968, litho, Spencer Gallery of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Galileo's Garden, 1984, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park


  • Untitled, 1973, Grand Valley State University, Allendale



  • Heritage Fountain, 1977, Blue Valley Park, Kansas City
  • Steeple of Light, 1990–94, Community Christian Church, Kansas City
  • Signage, Harry J. Epstein Hardware, Kansas City
  • East Gate Piece, 1966, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City
  • Homage to the Ancients, 1975, print, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City
  • Seven Views of the Grand Canyon, 1985, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City
  • Sculpture II, 1963, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
  • Standing Iron, 1962, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
  • Untitled, 1962, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City
  • Sun Field, 1991, Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis

North Carolina


  • Light Path Crossing, 1987, Case Western University, Cleveland
  • Sun Obelisk, 1974, Promenade Park, Toledo


  • Tulsa Time and Light Continuum, 1983, Convention Center, Tulsa
  • Radiant Range, 1993, Convention Center, Tulsa
  • Kansas Landmark (Drum Piece), 1965, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa


  • Levitated Light, 1987, Portland State University, School of Business Administration, Portland


  • Airport Sun Project, 1989, Nashville International Airport, Nashville


  • Light and Time Incident, 1995, Utah State University, Science / Technology Library, Logan


  • Light Garden, 1988, Virginia Beach


  • Appleton Aurora, 1989, Appleton Center, Appleton


  • City Art Museum, Helsinki (Finland)
  • Cankaya Cultural and Arts Foundation, Ankara, Turkey

Awards and honorsEdit

He received numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the Ford Foundation, the American Institute of Architects and the National Endowment of the Arts.


Ralph Coe. Dale Eldred: Sculpture Into Environment, ISBN 0-7006-0159-7, Regents Press Kansas, 1978.


  1. Roberta Lord, The Sky Above Dale Eldred,
  2. "Dale Eldred; Sculptor, 59", New York Times (obituary), Wednesday, July 28, 1993.

External linksEdit

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