Board members reimagine Grant Wood Gallery

Board members of the Grant Wood Art Gallery in Anamosa work hard to revamp the gallery in time for its April 28 re-opening. Recreations of Grant Wood’s famous pieces, painted by local students, will be hung on a fence in the back alley. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

The Grant Wood Art Gallery will soon unveil a month-long project that included renovations to the long-time attraction. The board members hope to provide a stop where people can come to appreciate the arts and learn about Grant Wood himself.

The back room of the gallery will be dedicated to Grant Wood’s Stone City Art Colony. The lighting in the room was redone and the brick wall exposed.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Thanks to the efforts of a new, vibrant board of directors, the Grant Wood Art Gallery in downtown Anamosa is about to unveil its new look.

     On Saturday, April 28, the public is invited to stop in from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to tour and view the art gallery and the local history surrounding Iowa’s famed artist, Grant Wood.

     The board admitted they’ve learned so much about Grant Wood in the short time they’ve spent revamping the gallery.

     The 10-member board was brought together, thanks to the efforts of Mike Dearborn of Anamosa, in March 2017.

     “I didn’t get too many no’s,” admitted Dearborn. “It’s a very diverse group, and we all bring something different to the table.”

     Their goal was to take on the task of turning the gallery around and market it to visitors to Jones County.

     “We wanted to showcase the building,” said board member Randy Day.

     The first major task was to empty the entire building and sore through all of the pieces of Grant Wood art. Once the bare walls came through, the board knew the original brick was something to show off.

     “You can really see the millwork and marble,” added Day of the trim throughout the former bank.

     The original vault and bank taller partisans are still in place today, adding some character to the layout of the gallery.

     As you walk in, Wood’s works of art line the walls in chronological order. Board member Bill Sperfslage said they wanted to tell his story.

     The board all donated their time, talents and materials (as well as family members) to tackle quite a project, which only began in early January.

     “We started planning after the holidays and just got the ball rolling,” said Sperfslage.

     The gallery closed over the winter, giving the board time to do the work needed to reopen in late April.

     “We wanted to start with a blank slate and basically rebuild,” said Sperfslage. “It was like a blank canvas.”

     Some work was contracted out to fix the ceiling in the back room, which will be dedicated to Grant Wood’s Stone City Art Colony. The brick wall was sealed and some painting needed to be done.

     “The vast majority was done by our generous board members who put in a ton of time,” praised Sperfslage.

     Dearborn and his brother, Dick, took on a lighting project in the back room.

     “That was huge,” complimented Sperfslage. “The lighting was poor and this has made a significant difference.”

     Another addition to the gallery is a feature of local artists. The first local artist whose work will be on display is John Null of Scotch Grove. Null’s work includes many paintings of iconic Jones County sites, such as Mon Maq Dan and Ely’s Stone Bridge.

     Sperfslage said it’s part of their mission to promote the arts, and those who exhibit an artistic talent.

     “That’s what the Stone City Art Colony was all about,” he said. “Grant Wood promoted the arts.”

     Day said he feels the arts add to the quality of life in any community.

     “It’s what people look at with any community,” he said. “They want recreation and art.”

     Each month, a different local artist will be featured.

     The gallery will now also be home to framing shop, which will provide framing services to those who purchase replica prints of Grant Wood’s paintings.

     With someone on hand running the framing business, the gallery will be open longer hours for visitors to the area.

     “We were at the mercy of volunteers before,” said Dearborn. “We want to be more regular with our hours now.”

     Aside from the artwork and features inside the gallery, Anamosa High School students were recruited to recreate some of Wood’s most famous works. The students painted on quality, outdoor vinyl material, and the work will line the fence located in the back of the gallery between Maquoketa Valley REC. Art students of KC Wortman with Thou Art also painted some of the scenes.

     Dearborn said what seemed to a controversial matter was turned into a positive thanks to the cooperation between MV and AHS.

     “It allows us to promote these students’ artwork and help recognize them,” he said.

     “They gain some exposure, too,” added Day. “We want to strive to promote the arts and help educate people. We hope they leave here with an understanding of Grant Wood and are curious to learn more.”

     Dearborn, Day and Sperfslage credit board member Jennifer Beall, who also volunteers with Starlighters II Theatre, for coming up with a new layout to the gallery.

     “She adds a touch of class to this place,” joked Sperfslage, “with her museum and history background.”

     Day said many of them stepped out of their comfort zone throughout this project.

     “We started researching Grant Wood and wanted to incorporate that into the displays,” he said.

     Each of Wood’s pieces will include some background on the art to bring viewers into his world.

     There will also be retail space to sell merchandise.

     Admission into the gallery will be free, with a suggested donation to keep the building well maintained.

     “We just want to provide a quality experience in a small town,” offered Sperfslage.

     Dearborn added, “We’re looking forward to seeing the faces of locals who walk in for the first time, many who have probably never been here before.”

     The gallery hopes to extend its mission and work alongside Jones County Tourism and the Stone City Foundation in attracting people to Grant Wood country.

     “We’re all here to work together toward the same goal,” said Dearborn.



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