Iowa State Center Curtain Renovation

After 45 years, the Stephens Auditorium curtain, named Silver Code, is undergoing a meticulous restoration.

Video: Alex Murphy/ISU News Service

The renowned curtain was commissioned in 1969 by Bill and Dorothy Fisher and in December 2013 was commissioned into the university’s art collection. Rigging experts from New York’s Metropolitan Opera paid a visit weeks ago to help determine cost estimates for re-hanging the curtain on new grommets. The nine month restoration project is funded partially by the SVP for Business and Finance and through private donations and is expected to be completed in May. Interested donors should contact the ISU Foundation.

History of the Curtain:

Before C.Y. Stephens Auditorium opened in September 1969 with an unprecedented five-night concert series by the New York Philharmonic, Iowa natives and Iowa State alumni J.W. (Bill) and Dorothy Fisher, lead donors for the construction of Fisher Theater, commissioned the Kawashima Textile Mills in Kyoto, Japan, to weave the 80-by-35-foot curtain on what was then the largest loom in the world.

Kawashima Textile Mills, Kyoto, Japan
Weaving of Silver Code at the Kawashima Textile Mills, Kyoto, Japan

Designed by artist and sculptor Ryokichi Mukai (Japanese, 1918-2010), the curtain – a true work of art – was named Giniro-no-kigou translated as Silver Code. Largely an expression of abstract symbolism, Silver Code expresses the sciences and technology at Iowa State.

Now, after 45 years and more than 3,500 curtain calls, this magnificent work of art is in urgent need of conservation and repair. Work has already begun, with textile conservators undertaking several life-saving measures. The remaining months of the project will be devoted to cleaning and repairing the face of the curtain by conservation fellow Kate Greder, a meticulous process that must be completed by hand.

Kate Greder
Kate Greder, conservation fellow with University Museums, working on the curtain.

Work to date on the C.Y. Stephens Auditorium art curtain is being supported by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Business and Finance, University Museums, and Iowa State Center. Yet private support is needed to complete the preservation and to restore the curtain as the crown jewel within the crown jewel of the arts at Iowa State.

To support this landmark conservation, scholarship and education project, please contact Lynette Pohlman at 515.294.6966, or the ISU Foundation at 866.419.6768.

Project questions can be directed to Kate Greder at

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