An Explorer’s Legacy

Feb. 4, 2004
Discovery: Isn’t That What Life Is All About?
It certainly was for Peter O. Stamats, chairman of the board at Cedar Rapids, IA-based Stamats Communications Inc., parent company of Stamats Buildings Media Inc., publisher of Buildings magazine and, who passed away in mid-December after a courageous battle with cancer. Though soft-spoken, Peter was a dynamic individual – an adventurer, who explored all things that appealed to the senses: the beauty of the world via his hot air balloon; the sensibilities and uniqueness of various cultures through his extensive artwork collection; and a visionary understanding and leadership approach to business opportunities.In a building-wide renovation that updated the company headquarters a few years ago, Peter found a permanent home for a large part of his art collection – and an opportunity to share this “adventure” with his colleagues and employees. More than 200 pieces – including masks, headdresses, sculptures, paintings, photography, multi-mediums, etc. that crossed a number of geographies – were lovingly displayed throughout the facility, causing both workers and visitors to take pause. Although our publishing company was already a creative environment, thanks to the talent of its people, Peter’s contribution cultivated further inspiration, both whimsical and forthright.To further increase employees’ understanding of the collection, Buildings Managing Editor Jana J. Madsen, whose double-major included Art History, proposed to Peter her desire to catalog his collection. “Being surrounded by such wonderful pieces from places all around the world can inspire us every day,” she says. “By understanding them, it helps us better know our place in society and appreciate the cultures of other people.” The ensuing research involved countless hours of her free time: poring through archival information and investigating the volumes of Peter’s personal library. Fact-finding discussions with Peter about his journey in selecting each cherished piece, however, provided the true key to the personality of – and the man behind – the collection.Notes Jana, “Peter collected by the eye, and he found [many] pieces that were very raw and naturalistic – by people who oftentimes were not trained as artists. A lot of his artwork is very functional in the sense that it included pieces from Africa, from Brazil, from Mexico that were part of people’s culture; they were not created as art objects – like the masks that were actually worn, not merely displayed on someone’s wall. That sensibility really appealed to him.“He would oftentimes collect a piece that he was instantly drawn to … and he appreciated that it might mean something different to others. That was one of the things he loved about art: It was a medium that everyone could relate to – oftentimes on a different level, based upon different personal experiences.”While I have thoroughly enjoyed the “Stamats Collection” over the past few years, it was not until I viewed Peter and Jana’s cataloging project that I gained a much greater appreciation about the subtle nuances of each piece, as well as its origin. Even in death, Peter’s legacy is an affirmation of exploration, of discovery, of culture and diversity, and of life’s continuum. To him, I say, simply, “Thank you.”      

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