Client: Missouri Department of Transportation

Location: Marston, MO, United States

Completion date: 2011

Artwork budget: $425,000

Project Team


David Dahlquist

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Missouri Department of Transportation

Ceramic Fabrication

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


R,L. Persons Construction, Inc.


This custom relief carved and modelled terra cotta wall mural is one part of a comprehensive, site-specific installation entitled “Convergence” for the Missouri Department of Transportation, located in Marston, New Madrid County, Missouri. A narrative that speaks to the largest earthquake in the history of the United States, as well as the extensive presence of the Mound Builder Native American culture from the Middle Mississippian period, come together in a series of integrated artworks, both interior and exterior of the new building.


The intent of the project and the objective for the design was to embody a site-specific, true “story” integrated within the building architecture and the landscape. The traveling public is welcomed to the center to learn about significant local history and become engaged in the story through images, as well as many different functional forms (benches, railings, floor mural, lighting, etc.)The mural is located as a focal point in the restroom vestibule of the new facility, the highest traffic public area. Based on an archaeological excavation, the handmade forms are taken from specific examples of period Native American pre-tribal culture pottery, unearthed in New Madrid County. The mural relates to other artifacts in the building. As a result of the integration, represented by different materials, images, and sculptural objects, people are reported to stay longer, increasing safety by promoting less fatigue on the highway. The rest area and welcome center has become recognized as a point of pride for the state and a new cultural destination.


Developing a site-specific story and installation based on history requires an extensive amount of research, discovery, and documentation. The project brought together many professional disciplines in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and other state and local government agencies. Concepts were developed and shared in an ongoing dialogue, to create a meaningful experience for visitors, in context and connection with the local community. This process must also take into account testing and analyzing related budget implications throughout design in order to make the project financially feasible, while maintaining the spirit and integrity of the concept. This requires establishing strong relationships with excellent communication; first through facilitation with the public, and then in coordination with the owner, architects, engineers, fabricators, and contractors. This is collaboration. “Create. Meaning. Together.”