CEDAR RAPIDS — When a delegation of community leaders traveled to Denver in June on a successful campaign to have Cedar Rapids designated a Great American City, they took the Tree of Five Seasons with them.
The symbol, which has been Cedar Rapids’s logo for almost four decades, was the only thing on the back of the delegates’ shirts. But that image alone had people coming up to them and exclaiming, “Oh, you’re from Cedar Rapids!”
The symbol and the 61-foot, stainless steel monument it inspired that stands downtown are Gary Anderson’s legacy to the city.
The artist and designer died Monday at the age of 76.
“The logo is absolutely an identified feature of Cedar Rapids,” said Sandi Fowler, assistant city manager. “He made a mark, literally, on the city of Cedar Rapids that we feel is really long lasting.”
Born in Fort Dodge, Anderson graduated from Prairie High School in Gowrie and Drake University in Des Moines. He and his wife, Alice, who died almost exactly one year ago, moved to Cedar Rapids in 1965 when he got a job at Creswell Munsell Schubert and Zirbel (CMF&Z) advertising agency. He retired from the agency in 1998.
CMF&Z wrote the “City of Five Seasons” slogan in 1968 to highlight Cedar Rapids’s quality of life — the fifth season being the time to enjoy the other four.
By 1975, the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city of Cedar Rapids had adopted the Five Seasons slogan and Anderson’s logo.
For almost four decades, the logo has been ubiquitous, used everywhere — from the sides of city buses to the city’s official letterhead.
The logo gained a three-dimensional presence in 1996 with the Tree of Life sculpture on the banks of the Cedar River. Anderson and CMF&Z director Bill Munsell worked to raise more than $800,000 to build the monument in downtown Cedar Rapids.
The sculpture was damaged by the 2008 flood, and Munsell and Anderson headed a committee that raised more than $300,000 to revamp the Tree and surrounding plaza in 2012.
“He felt the city needed some sort of symbol, a landmark,” his son Chris Anderson said. “He wanted to make it a focal point for the city, something that would be identified with Cedar Rapids.”
And he succeeded, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said.
“The sculpture has changed the skyline of the downtown of Cedar Rapids,” he said.
The monument also was one of the first pieces of public sculpture in Cedar Rapids, Corbett recalled.
“I think it helped lead the way for additional public art and the appreciation of public art in general,” he said.
The sculpture wasn’t the only piece of art Gary Anderson left behind.
His paintings hang around the community, in places such as the Mercy Medical Center and the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station. He designed stained-glass windows installed at First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, where he was a longtime member, and a sculpted brick mural on the side of the Belle Plain Art Museum.
He also designed countless logos and brochures for businesses, including the original Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball team logo.
“He was an extremely community-minded person. He thought a lot about how to best present Cedar Rapids to the rest of the world,” Chris Anderson said. “He wanted to see not just Cedar Rapids, but Iowa and the Midwest, represented as well as possible.”
A time of gathering in memory of Gary Anderson will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home, 4200 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids.
A funeral service will be 11 a.m. Friday at First Lutheran Church, 1000 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
Messages and tributes to the Anderson family can be left at www.cedarmemorial.com under Obituaries.