May 24 2011

Grant Wood Studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

If our family picked a favorite artist, it would be Grant Wood.  Whether it’s because he hails from the Midwest or because he depicts farm scenes, or because our kids recognize American Gothic so readily, we’ve come to enjoy Grant Wood’s artwork and to learn about the artist.

We’ve seen American Gothic in Chicago, and the traveling American Gothic statue.  We’ve seen Grant Wood paintings at the Dubuque Museum of Art and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, which has the largest Grant Wood collection in the world.  We’ve seen the inspiration for paintings like Young Corn as we traveled the rolling hills of northeastern Iowa and drove through Stone City, Iowa.  While we haven’t seen the real American Gothic house, we’ve posed in front of the Stone City replica.  And of course, because we collect books on our travels, we own a children’s biography of Grant Wood.

This weekend, we had the opportunity to make one more stop on the Grant Wood trail, a visit to the studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he lived and painted some of his most famous works, including American Gothic and Young Corn.  The Grant Wood Studio at 5 Turner Alley is just a few blocks from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, with which it is affiliated.

Grant Wood studio, photo by Mark Tade.

The studio, formerly a haymow and stable, is now used as a visitor center on the ground floor while Grant Wood’s workshop is upstairs.  Tours begin in the visitor center, where guests are shown a video about Grant Wood and the importance of the Cedar Rapids studio in his art life.  After the video, a docent leads visitors up the outdoor staircase to the second-floor studio.

Interior view of 5 Turner Alley, looking east, c. 1925, courtesy of Figge Art Museum, Grant Wood Archives. Photo: John W. Barry.

Grant Wood’s special touches are everywhere–the shelves and storage spaces he created not only for doing his work but for making it a living space for himself, his mother, and his sister.  Though the space is not large, he made efficient use of it.  The docent was happy to answer my children’s questions as she led us around the workshop and showed us photos of what it was like when Grant Wood lived there.

Interior view of 5 Turner Alley, looking west, c. 1925, courtesy of Figge Art Museum, Grant Wood Archives. Photo: John W. Barry.

Because the tour is guided and there are no hands-on activities, I’d recommend a stop at the Grant Wood Studio for children who are school-age or older.  Those who have some background knowledge of Grant Wood will enjoy it most.  My children’s eyes grew wide at the end of the video as a modern photo of Stone City was transformed into Grant Wood’s painting of the village, and my formerly-shy first-grader raised her hand and proudly declared, “We’ve been to Stone City!”

The Grant Wood Studio is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and admission is now free.  If you have any interest in Grant Wood’s life and work, it’s a good way to learn more about this artist who depicted the Midwest so well.

Photos courtesy Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

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