Coat rack art

Mark Starman, 48, of Sioux City, stops to take a peek at holiday gift bags containing winter hats and gloves outside City Hall in December. The coat rack -- a piece of art created by Sioux City resident Ken Peterson -- is outside City Hall, at 405 Sixth St.

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SIOUX CITY | Initially Ken Peterson felt his work of art -- a coat rack placed on the corner of Fourth and Nebraska streets -- would serve as furniture for Sioux City’s homeless population. Since, after all, the streets of the town, in a way, serve as their living room.

But since the coat rack’s introduction in 2008, the work of art has become something else entirely.

“One day I went Christmas shopping and I bought an extra pair of gloves and hung them on the coat rack and they were gone the next day,” Peterson said. “That was kind of my hope, or idea, that people over time would feel that it was a trading post. If you don’t want it, leave it here.”

Now, Peterson’s coat rack has morphed into a monument to Siouxland’s caring nature. It's now in front of City Hall, at 405 Sixth St.

Hats, coats, gloves, shirts, pants and groceries all have found their way onto the coat rack at one point, as an offering to the less fortunate.

The rack is an example of ready-made art, Peterson said, a form pioneered by French-American artist Marcel Duchamp. At its core, ready-made art utilizes manufactured items and displays them in such a way that changes their meaning.

Peterson said every town should have something like the coat rack, bringing awareness to the homeless population and providing an opportunity for citizens to offer up a good deed in an anonymous fashion.

“It’s that sort of selfless altruism that doesn’t have anything attached, it’s not even a tax write-off,” he said. “I like the fact that it surprises people that there are so many kind people around.”

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