Paris has the Eiffel Tower, St. Louis has the Arch and Dublin, Ohio has the Field of Corn.
When you drive through the intersection at Frantz and Rings Road for the first time, you might be surprised to see rows and rows of giant concrete ears of corn sprawling out on the southwest corner.
But for locals, the sculpture sometimes called “Cornhenge” but officially titled Field of Corn (with Osage Oranges) has become an iconic part of this suburban community.
WOSU reader Rick Vicente asked Curious Cbus to find out more about the history of the sculpture.
The project was commissioned by the Dublin Arts Council after a juried competition to develop a work of art on land owned by the City of Dublin.
Columbus-based artist Malcolm Cochran wanted to put together a proposal, but when he visited the site in 1993 he didn’t find much inspiration.
He did notice the Osage Orange trees and his gut told him that the land had an agricultural past. That led to his vision for the concrete cornfield, which would memorialize the area's farmland history as it transitioned to a more urban environment.
Cochran was teaching abroad when the news of his winning proposal was announced and the first reactions came in. While in Europe, he received a fax with the Columbus Dispatch headline, “Concrete Cornfield Good Bet To Set Dublin On Its Ear.”
Some in the community complained that money might be better spent on something more practical like a playground for kids, but the Dublin Arts Council had, in fact, asked that the artwork have “drive-by potential” rather than be a place to stop and park.
As Cochran explained in a 2017 interview on All Sides with Ann Fisher, it was after his proposal was accepted that he did additional work to address concerns.
“This is an odd circumstance because it was researching after the fact to try to justify why I would put ears of corn in that location,” Cochran said.
Cochran connected with a local historian who told him that the site was not only once a farm, but that it belonged to Sam and Eulalia Frantz, the family that Frantz Road is named after. Sam’s wife Eulalia was alive at the time and they reached out to her to get more information about the farm.
“I was able to get a photograph,” Cochran said, which depicted “a cornfield with paper bags over the ears so they could control fertilization... and I thought 'This really nails it.'” It turned out that not only was the land once a corn farm, but Sam Frantz was a pioneer in corn hybridization.
Cochran used the images and this new knowledge in a presentation for the public and the Dublin Arts Council, but he acknowledged that the concept was still not popular.
Field of Corn (with Osage Oranges) was dedicated on October 30, 1994. Members of the Frantz family including Eulalia were there and spoke to the crowd. Not everyone in Dublin was a fan of the new work, but over time the sculpture has become part of the fabric of the city, with photos of the work featured in promotional materials and even family Christmas cards.
In his interview with Ann Fisher, Cochran remarked, “Probably the best public works are controversial to begin with. If they’re universally loved to start with, then it’s something that’s really familiar.”
Art history is filled with examples of works that were misunderstood at the time of their creation only to be celebrated in later decades.
After all, even the Eiffel Tower had its critics when it was first constructed.
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