Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A new connection to the Wood family

I recently had the privilege of talking to Debbie Beilstein, the great niece of Frank Wood, Grant Wood’s brother.  Frank served very much as a grandfather figure to Debbie and she also shared a close relationship with Nan Wood Graham as Nan resided nearby in Riverside, California.  As none of the Wood siblings had any immediate descendants, it has been a joy to speak to Debbie about her memories.  To the right is a photograph from 1960 of Debbie and Frank when she was 3 in his backyard in San Diego.

Debbie has started a Facebook page where she is sharing photographs and stories about Frank and Nan.  I welcome you to visit and follow her page to learn more:  www.facebook.com/nanwoodgrahamandfrankmwood

One of my favorite things Debbie shared with me is a recipe for cheese bread that Nan Wood Graham would bring to every family gathering.  Debbie’s family has kept the tradition alive and still makes “American Gothic cheese bread” today.  To join in the tradition, I plan to make Nan’s recipe this weekend to serve at our lecture series event on Sunday.  Be sure to join us Sunday at 2:00pm for a great presentation by Mark McWhorter on “Regionalist Art During the Great Depression” and try some of Nan’s cheese bread for yourself!

Holly Berg, Administrator
American Gothic House Center

Upcoming Events:

Friday, April 4: New exhibit:  Fruits, by Grant Wood
5:00pm-7:00pm at the American Gothic House Center
All ages welcome with free admission.
In his last few years of work, Grant Wood turned his focus to the print medium.  Fruits is an important piece of this work.  The American Gothic House Center is pleased to display this work as part of the Center’s permanent collection.  View the work and learn about the history behind this series of lithographs and its relationship to the Great Depression. The acquisition of this work made possible with funding from Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, City of Eldon, and John Deere Ottumwa Works.

Sunday, April 6: Lecture series: “Regionalist Art During the Great Depression”
2:00pm at the Eldon Library Hall
All ages welcome with free admission.
Join us as Mark McWhorter, director of the Indian Hills Art Gallery discusses the implications the Great Depression had on the Regionalist art community.  Several works from the IHCC collection will be on display, including works by Grant Wood.

Saturday, April 19: Easter Egg Roll at our “White House”
Easter Egg Hunt at 1:00pm
1:00pm-3:00pm on the American Gothic House grounds
Open to children and free admission.
Join us for our annual Egg Roll!  A popular tradition at the White House, this event will be sure to please!  Spring themed crafts and activities to accompany the event.  Sponsored by the American Gothic House Center and GATE.

Saturday, May 3: Wildflower Pastel Class
1:00pm-2:00pm on the American Gothic House grounds
Open to children K-6 grade
$9.00 fee for supplies
Pre-registration needed, limited to 15 participants
Celebrate May Day with a stroll through the Center’s wildflower gardens!  Students will learn about of the flowers and create their own with pastel chalk.  Local artist Chris Abigt will host the class and guide the students in their creations.



The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenues, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | TheAmericanGothicHouse@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Celebrate Grant Wood on February 8



The chill in the air must mean it’s almost time again for our annual Grant Wood Birthday Soup Smorgasbord.  The celebration will take place Saturday, February 8 from 11:00 am-1:00 pm at the KD Center in Eldon. You can enjoy an amazing array of soups, homemade bread, and birthday desserts.  Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who help make this event possible—their cooking is out of this world!

Door prizes will be awarded throughout the event, donated by the following businesses:  Chommy’s, Just A’little Junk’e in the Trunk, Libertyville Savings Bank, and Ostrander Flowers and Greenhouses.

Free will donations will support educational programs at the American Gothic House Center. Come celebrate what would be Grant Wood’s 123rd birthday, have a wonderful meal, and support a worthwhile cause at the same time.  Be sure to mark your calendars!

Don’t forget to take a look at all of the great events we have coming up this year at the American Gothic House Center.  Visit our website to see our Calendar of Events:   
http://www.americangothichouse.net/plan-your-visit/calendar/

Monday, November 4, 2013

All aboard for an Iowa rail adventure!

Thank you to everyone who attended our Halloween Party last weekend.  Despite the strong winds we had a wonderful turnout and the kids had a great time.  Pictures of the event can be viewed on our Facebook page here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152007157211449.1073741829.80025816448&type=3    

It always seems as we finish one event it is on to the next!  Please join us for a special presentation by “Iowa’s Super Conductor” Rudolph Daniels on Sunday, November 10 at 1:00pm at the Eldon Library Hall.  Daniels will describe the past, present and future of the Hawkeye State’s railroads. The program will explore Iowa’s unique position in the construction of the first transcontinental railroad and Iowa’s great contribution to railroad safety.  Daniels will highlight the famous steamliners that rode Iowa’s rails.

The presentation is free and open to the public. After the presentation the Eldon Depot Museum will be open for tours.  

This event is held in partnership with the Eldon Depot Museum and funding for this presentation is provided by Humanities Iowa.  All aboard for an Iowa rail adventure!
 
 
 
 
Upcoming events:
 
November 10: Humanities Iowa Lecture by Rudolph Daniels: “Trains Across Iowa”
All ages welcome
Free admission
1:00pm at the Eldon Library Hall
 
Eldon, Iowa is known for being the home of the American Gothic House, but it also is home to the historic Eldon Depot, which boasts a rich history of railroad life. Join us as Rudolph Daniels describes the past, present and future of the Hawkeye State’s railroads. The program explores Iowa’s unique position in the construction of the first transcontinental railroad and Iowa’s great contribution to railroad safety. The talk also describes the famous steamliners that rode Iowa’s rails. All aboard for an Iowa rail adventure!
After the presentation the Eldon Depot Museum will be open for viewing.
This event held in partnership with the Eldon Depot Museum.
 
 
December 7: Gingerbread House Building
1:00-4:00pm at the American Gothic House Center
Open to children
Free admission
Join in a great holiday tradition for the family! Arrive early to create your own gingerbread house made out of graham crackers, frosting and candy while supplies last!

 

 
 
Holly Berg
Administrator
American Gothic House Center
TheAmericanGothicHouse@gmail.com

Friday, October 4, 2013

Volunteers an important "piece" of the museum

The American Gothic House Center hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciation Potluck this past Saturday.  This year’s potluck theme was “Volunteers are an important piece of our museum.”  It was a very fitting theme as the Center would not be able to operate without the help of our dedicated volunteer staff. 
Though the weather did not cooperate to have it outside, we hope everyone had an enjoyable time! As not everyone could attend, I would like to take this time to thank all of the volunteers at the Center for their hard work and dedication and we greatly appreciate your continued efforts.
 
 
 
Upcoming events:
 
October 26: Children’s Gothic Halloween Party
2:00-4:00pm at the American Gothic House Center
Ages: Preschool – 5th grade. Small children should be accompanied by an adult.
Free admission
Celebrate Halloween in front of the American Gothic House! Arrive dressed in your costume, make your own spooky American Gothic Parody, make fun crafts, play games and enjoy delicious treats.
 
November 10: Humanities Iowa Lecture by Rudolph Daniels: “Trains Across Iowa”
All ages welcome
Free admission
1:00pm at the Eldon Library Hall
Eldon, Iowa is known for being the home of the American Gothic House, but it also is home to the historic Eldon Depot, which boasts a rich history of railroad life. Join us as Rudolph Daniels describes the past, present and future of the Hawkeye State’s railroads. The program explores Iowa’s unique position in the construction of the first transcontinental railroad and Iowa’s great contribution to railroad safety. The talk also describes the famous steamliners that rode Iowa’s rails. All aboard for an Iowa rail adventure!
After the presentation the Eldon Depot Museum will be open for viewing.
This event held in partnership with the Eldon Depot Museum.
 
December 7: Gingerbread House Building
1:00-4:00pm at the American Gothic House Center
Open to children
Free admission
Join in a great holiday tradition for the family! Arrive early to create your own gingerbread house made out of graham crackers, frosting and candy while supplies last!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Learning extends past the classroom at AGHC

Museum internships provide students hands-on, in-depth educational experiences which cannot be found in the classroom.  Over the past year the American Gothic House Center has been developing an internship program to provide these opportunities to help fulfill our educational mission.  The Center was privileged to have an intern as part of our team the past few months.  Amanda Baker, a student at Central College in Pella, Iowa, spent her summer immersed in the Center’s collections of artifacts, newspaper clippings, and photographs. 


The Center was able to receive a grant from the Wapello County Foundation to purchase a laptop, software, and scanner for Amanda to use during her time here.  With their assistance we were able to teach Amanda many new aspects of museum collection care and management.  She learned the ins and outs of museum software and helped add new artifacts to our database.  She also organized our archives and scanned old letters and newspaper clippings making them more accessible to researchers and historians.  Amanda said she especially enjoyed assisting with the installation of our new exhibit “Parodies of a Portrait:  An American Icon’s Place in Pop Culture.” 


Most importantly, Amanda was able to experience the daily operations of a museum and the fascinating job of working with a diverse public.  However, one aspect she did not enjoy was being on camera--somehow she always managed to disappear every time a television crew stopped by!  Luckily, we were able to at least take a few snapshots of her working in the collection.
The Center was fortunate to have Amanda’s help this Center and are excited to have her back during her winter break.  We also plan to continue developing our internship program and are arranging to have a social media intern this fall.

Holly Berg
Administrator
American Gothic House Center
theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Friday, July 5, 2013

AGHC says thanks to military families

We hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day.  Thank you to our volunteers who kept the doors of the American Gothic House Center open for the holiday!

The Fourth of July is a time to reflect and appreciate the great efforts of men and women who have fought, and continue to fight, for our freedom.  One small way museums such as the American Gothic House Center are saying thanks and giving back to these individuals and their families is by participating in the Blue Star Museums program.

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America including many right here in Iowa. The program runs through Labor Day, September 2, 2013.

The free admission program is available to active duty U.S. military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps - and up to five family members.
To find out which museums are participating, visit www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums. The site includes a list of participating museums and a map to help with visit planning.    


Holly Berg
Administrator
American Gothic House Center
TheAmericanGothicHouse@gmail.com

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Center gears up for new exhibit

The drums are rolling and the tension is building in preparation for the unveiling of a new exhibit at the American Gothic House Center—“Parodies of a Portrait: An American Icon’s Place in Pop Culture.”

The exhibit will premier from 6 to 7 pm on Friday, May 24, and, of course, will remain on display indefinitely. It proves to be a compelling—and fun—look into contemporary America using American Gothic as the backdrop.

Beginning with Gordon Park’s photograph of Ella Watson, a cleaning woman employed by the Farm Security Administration in 1942, and traveling forward through time, the exhibit will showcase how the iconic image has been used to bring attention to cultural and societal issues.

Many of the parodies will be familiar, such as the 1963 Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Jed Clampett and Granny—aka Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan—of The Beverly Hillbillies. Some might say this parody, along with the shot in the opening credits of Green Acres of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor (Oliver Douglas and his wife Lisa in the series), was the seminal moment for parodies of American Gothic. From that point on parody became an art form of its own.

Predictably the parodies on display in the new exhibit will feature celebrity-type characters. However, once in a while local (if not to Eldon, then to the area targeted), people will be the characters in the parody.

Such is the case with one particular parody that should hit home to many local Eldon citizens—Tom and Roseanne Arnold pictured near the site of their planned mansion in Eldon.

As anyone who remembers the story knows, this endeavor of Tom and Roseanne’s didn’t fare so well. Steven Biel, in his book, American Gothic, accurately sums up the outcome of the Arnold’s Eldon peccadillo.

“But this gothic house [Tom and Roseanne’s mansion] was never built. Roseanne and Tom split up, the cornfield was leased to a farmer, the ‘loose meat’ restaurant they had opened in Eldon didn’t survive, and the local community college took over the property.”

In case you are not aware of the story, an article in the April 21, 1997 edition of People magazine provides a good overview. To read the article click here.

Tom and Rosanne’s parody reflects all parodies of American Gothic, as it takes a topical issue and satirizes it to drive home a point. In the case of the Arnold’s their excess (the multi-million dollar mansion and their jet-setting style), was in sharp contrast to the modest ways of a small town—and of the characters in the painting. Such is the nature of parody.

This is a taste of what will be in store for visitors at the American Gothic House Center beginning next Friday. It will be worth the trip.

Also, don’t forget about the other upcoming events at the Center during Eldon’s American Gothic Days, the art contest, the 5K walk/run and the 20-mile bike ride. For details on these events click here.

One more thing:

This morning, while reviewing the National Public Radio website (and my kids say I lead a boring life), I ran across an interview and song that I wanted to share.

It is not upbeat, funny, or soul-lifting, but it is a story that any parent who has lost a child carries with them daily. It is about the aftermath. Specifically, it is the story of a soldier and his dad. If you would, take time to listen to the story and the imbedded song, but be warned, it will cause a tear to drop. In my case, it was a flood. Please click here: A Songwriter And An Army Dad Share One Touching Story.

Take care.
Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Some parallels are hard to ignore

The story of Grant Wood finding the house in American Gothic, as well as the two models, his sister Nan Wood Graham and his dentist Dr. Byron McKeeby, is well known. Especially Nan Wood Graham, as she remained an active promoter of her brother for decades. But how much is known about an equally famous portrait and a woman named Monika Pon-su-san?

I will be the first one to admit until the other day I had no idea who Monika Pon-su-san is, but, upon discovery, the parallels with Nan Wood Graham are too close to dismiss.

Pon-su-san’s story begins two decades later than Wood’s and in a much different location—Cape Town, South Africa, in 1950. Pon-su-san was working in her uncle’s launderette when she was spotted by Russian expat and artist Vladimir Tretchikoff.

Tretchikoff (who I wasn’t much aware of either prior to this research) saw something in the young lady and asked her to model for him. The result was Chinese Girl, one of the highest selling art prints in the 1950s and 60s. Don’t see the connection? Read on.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, “Vladimir Tretchikoff's iconic painting ‘Chinese Girl,’ said to be one of the most reproduced in the world, is coming home to South Africa after more than half a century in a private Chicago collection.”
In a recent interview with BBC News, Pon-Su-San recounted the story of how she came to be a model for the iconic portrait and comments on the final product.

“A lot of people ask me: ‘What is that stern look you had on your face? What were you thinking about?’"

Stern face? This is much like the review Nan Wood Graham received after American Gothic became known, as one person was said to remark, “her face would sour milk.”

Granted, the style of Tretchikoff and Wood differ greatly (Wood, to my knowledge, didn’t paint any green faces) but nonetheless both paintings have been reproduced extensively and found their way into pop culture, with Chinese Girl featured on “mugs, T-shirts, posters and wallpaper,” according to The Huffington Post.

I am not aware of any American Gothic wallpaper out there but it has been plastered on mugs and T-shirts for decades, as well as a host of other venues. Both paintings also hold the title—depending on whom is doing the talking—of the most reproduced painting in the world. In short, both are notable in the own right and are similar in popularity.

There is another parallel between the two artists and their paintings that must be mentioned. Wood, in certain circles, was never considered a serious artist. Early in his career, and for decades after his death, Wood and his work was often labeled “sentimental,” and not worthy of intellectual examination. Evidently, Tretchikoff suffered much of the same criticism, at least for Chinese Girl.

As per The Huffington Post, “’Chinese Girl’ sometimes is called the ‘Mona Lisa of kitsch,’ angering Tretchikoff who insisted he was a serious artist.”

One more parallel: Both artists, regardless of their critics, will live long in the public’s eye. So much for the art critics.

Things to remember

This Sunday, May 12, Orchestra Iowa’s will perform “American Gothic,” an original composition by three-time Grammy Award-Winner Michael Daugherty, at the Bridge View Center at 3 p.m. Admission is free.

On Friday, May 24 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the American Gothic House Center, a new exhibit, “Parodies of a Portrait: An American Icon’s Place in Pop Culture,” will premier. Stop by and check out how American Gothic has been portrayed in pop culture. Some may even surprise you!

Register and enter the American Gothic Days festivities at the American Gothic Center on June 8-9: the art contest, 5K run/walk and the 20-plus mile bike ride. Click here for more details.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, May 2, 2013

American Gothic now set to music

It was only a matter of time when it would happen. After all, American Gothic has been the focus of numerous parodies, advertising gimmicks and the backdrop for social commentary, so why not set it to music? Composer and Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty decided to do just that.

This weekend, May 4 and 5, Iowa Orchestra (formerly the Cedar Rapids Symphony) will give a world premiere performance of Daugherty’s “American Gothic,” a 20-minute tribute to Grant Wood and American Gothic, at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on May 4 and at West High School in Iowa City on May 5.

A trip to the Iowa City area doesn’t fit into your travel plans? Not to worry as Orchestra Iowa, along with the premier of Daugherty’s “American Gothic,” will be at Bridge View Center in Ottumwa on Sunday, May 12 for a 3 p.m. performance. Cost a concern? Shouldn’t be as admission is free at the Bridge View Center.

According to an article by Diana Nollen in Hooplanow.com, Daugherty composed the arrangement as a “homage to Eastern Iowa’s most famous artist, Grant Wood.”

Shortly after being commissioned by Orchestra Iowa to write the piece, Daugherty, a professor at the University of Michigan and Grammy-award winning composer, took some time off and revisited his roots—Eastern Iowa, what he calls “Grant Wood country.”

According to the article, he also visited the Art Institute of Chicago to view the original painting, which influenced his final composition.

“‘The thing about the painting is that it’s a mystery. No one really knows what it means. People never really understood Grant Wood as an artist either,’” he says. “‘Some people took him seriously, (some critics) thought he was an amateur, partly because he was using the Midwest as his inspiration.

‘I thought it would be interesting to explore, ‘what does it mean to be a composer like myself, coming from Iowa,’ and also, ‘what are some of those hidden secrets in that painting’ — to explore that in a musical way.’”

As reported in the Hooplanow article, the result is a musical rendition of Wood and American Gothic.

“Daugherty’s musical artwork paints sonic images in three movements, beginning with “On a Roll,” which he describes as ‘a rollicking melody with colorful orchestration,’ evoking the rolling hills of Jones County, so prevalent in Wood’s paintings.

The middle section, “Winter Dreams,” is inspired not only by Wood’s black-and-white lithographs, but also by the bleak winters of Willis Daugherty’s rural Iowa youth, marked by soaring snowdrifts. It features the haunting sounds of alto flute and violins.

The final movement, “Pitchfork,” reflects the dour look of the duo in “American Gothic” and Wood’s wit. Daugherty kicks up the tempo with ‘very fast and very, very way-out bluegrass music.’ He calls it ‘a window into my contemporary musical vision of ‘American Gothic.’ ”

To view and listen to Daugherty and violinist Luke Witchger perform a preview of the final movement of the composition click here.

At Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Ottumwa, Orchestra Iowa will also perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “The Rock” and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 in D Minor in addition to Daugherty’s “American Gothic.” For ticket and additional information to the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City performances click here. For additional information to the performance at Bridge View Center click here. Remember, the concert at Bridge View is free.

Time to make plans for June at the American Gothic House Center

As mentioned last week, there are three events at the Center that are rapidly approaching.

In conjunction with “American Gothic Days” in Eldon, the American Gothic House Center is holding an art contest, a 5K run/walk and a 20-plus mile bike ride. Registration for the run/walk and bike ride can be done on the day of the event (the run /walk on Saturday, June 8 and the bike ride on Sunday, June 9) but to save a few bucks early registration is in order.

If registered for the 5K run/walk and the 20-mile bike ride by May 24, registration is $15; afterwards the fee is $18. Click on either event for more information and the entry form.

As for the art contest, there is no entry fee but the artwork must be submitted with entry form by Tuesday, June 4. For more information and the entry form click here.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring has sprung, the grass riz…

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

              -Robert Frost

One month ago I wrote in this space about spring finally arriving. How foolish. In the past four weeks we have had wind, snow, torrential rains and biting cold worthy of a January morning. So much for spring. But things are finally changing. Maybe.

Frost’s poem is one I recite when spring is noticeable to the eye, which it is now. It is one of two poems that cross my mind this time of year (more about the other one later).

I was introduced to this poem a few years ago and was struck by the paradoxes it presents: “green is gold…leaf’s a flower.” Which is not really a paradox, rather the truth. Some, but not all, trees and shrubs (the forsythia for example) have a show of gold for a short time, or as Frost states, “only so an hour.” Others, such as the magnolia tree, start with a flower which soon turns into a leaf. I find the way Frost captures spring compelling, but it is his parallel to Eden that draws me in.

His reference to Eden sinking in grief intrigues me. Upon study I found Frost was referring to felix culpa, loosely translated as “fortunate fall.” Meaning that an unfortunate event, or a series of them, leads to a better outcome. In Biblical theology the fateful circumstances of Adam in the Garden of Eden in the long run caused good to happen.

Such as with spring. The gold and flowers are pleasing to the eye, but only last a short while as they succumb to the leaf which provides shade for the plant allowing it to live.

The poem also speaks of life. To put this thinking into practice I will use the birth of a child as an example. When born, the child is new and fresh, but, as any parent that has guided a child to adulthood knows, it isn’t for long. It seems this precious time lasts, in Frost’s words, “only so an hour.”

Grief, not as severe as Eden’s perhaps, also exists. Children cause and suffer grief, but, as every parent knows, this heartache, in the form of whatever it may be, also builds character and helps mold and shape the child. Although difficult to navigate at the time this grief results in a “fortunate fall,” eventually leading to a better person and a more-rounded adult. At least that is the hope.

In my interpretation the only line in the poem that does not offer hope, but speaks volumes about life, is the last, “Nothing gold can stay.” Flowers, gold buds and dawn, as well as life, is not forever. In time all come to an end—at least for awhile. Sad, but real. However the poem doesn’t make me sad, rather it provides incentive to pay attention to the early buds and flowers of spring and to drink in life, hug my children and grandchildren, revel in their accomplishments and appreciate what I—they—have been given. Ah, the power of a poem.

To lighten the mood, earlier I mentioned another poem that crosses my mind this time of year. Actually it is not a poem, but rather a ditty. I remember it playing on the radio sometime in the 70s and it has stuck with me since:

“Spring has sprung, the grass has ris, I wonder how my spark plug is?”

I know, silly, and not exactly literary. I believe it was an ad by a spark plug manufacture to prompt homeowners to replace the spark plug on the lawnmower before the mowing season starts. I have no idea how effective it was but it stuck with me. The things one remembers.

Upcoming events:

There will be more on this in later posts but a heads up is in order in case anyone wants to make plans. On Friday, May 24 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. a special exhibit opening is planned for “Parodies of a Portrait: American Gothic’s Place in Society.” As most know. American Gothic continues to be one of the most parodied paintings in the world. “Parodies of a Portrait” explores the history of these parodies and how this iconic painting is interpreted in society.

On June 8 and 9, in conjunction with American Gothic Days in Eldon, the Center will sponsor an art show, a 5k run/walk and a 20-plus mile bicycle ride. Details about that weekend’s activities can be found at the website: www.AmericanGothicHouse.net.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eldon Public Library turns 100

This Saturday, April 20, the Eldon Public Library turns the century mark and it will not go unnoticed by library staff and the city of Eldon.

On Nov. 23, 1912 the cornerstone was laid for the present-day library and on May 9, 1913 a formal dedication was held at the Christian Church to christen the new building and usher in an era of public institutions dedicated to knowledge and learning.

In this day we have a tendency to take the local library for granted, as most have been an institution for well over 100 years. But in the waning years of the 19th century and the early days of the 20th this was not the case, as public libraries were considered an indulgence of sorts the country as a whole had not yet wholly endorsed. But thanks, in part to Andrew Carnegie, libraries were moving from a luxury to necessity.

The legacy of Andrew Carnegie is etched in the public’s mind as the person who decided to use his wealth to benefit the masses. And to do this, he decided to build libraries in towns small and large across the country. Public libraries, free to the citizens of all ranks and social orders, to provide learning opportunities theretofore not readily available.

Nationwide Carnegie contributed funds to build 1,419 libraries for a total cost of $41.5 million. Iowa was an early recipient of the funds with Fairfield receiving the first grant in the state in 1892. This was remarkable as Fairfield was the first town west of Pittsburgh, Penn. to receive such a grant. There were many more to follow.

A total of 101 libraries were built in Iowa using Carnegie funds. Although Iowa wasn’t the leading builder of Carnegie libraries (it ranked sixth nationwide in the total built) it may not have been that high if it wasn’t for the progressive reputation Iowa is known for.

According to the Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project based at the University of Iowa, at that time Iowa had become the 10th state to pass legislation allowing towns to establish and maintain libraries through taxation, a vital measure providing a means to create and sustain libraries.

Another progressive piece of legislation that, according to the project was instrumental in establishing libraries on Iowa, was allowing women to vote on “yes” or “no” issues in 1894—26 years before the 19th Amendment allowed voting rights to all women. This vote was critical in Iowa as women’s organizations often led the movement to establish a library.

To digress. A woman voting is something else we take for granted in society, but in the first 100-plus years of our country it was a revolutionary thought. Somewhat ironic considering all Americans at one time were considered revolutionaries.

Casual research did not reveal if a women’s organization was instrumental in establishing a library in Eldon but, given the evidence that women were prime movers in founding libraries, one can rest assured there were women on the front lines of the movement.

Eldon opened its first library in 1906 and in 1911 the local library association (established in 1908) appealed to Carnegie for funds to help construct a building. In turn he donated $7,500 to the effort and two years later Eldon had the building that has stood for 100 years and has served countless citizens.

 To honor this milestone the Eldon Public Library will hold an open house this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be refreshments available and craft building for the younger patrons is scheduled from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. At 1 p.m. Dr. Shana Stuart, director of the Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project at U of I, will make a presentation to mark the occasion.

In the words of T.S. Elliot, “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” So stop by the library this Saturday and not only wish it a Happy Birthday but celebrate the future of our country. And maybe check out a book.
Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
Our Mission: Integratin
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Where the tall corn grows

“Wood was painting what he longed for, an agrarian paradise where the land took care of her own before the machine came to torment her; further, this was an America without urban centers and thus free of the social complexities of mass unemployment, crowded conditions, factories and industry.”

    -  Going Back to Iowa: The World of Grant Wood
        University of Virginia American Studies Program

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? Many would agree; others not so much. A world without malls, convenience stores or McDonald’s? How would we survive? But there was a time when it was quite possible to survive, in fact thrive, without the amenities (and aggravations, I might add) that we have today.

It is obvious when viewing the works of Grant Wood that he lived in a dream world, a world where machinery wasn’t invented yet, smokestacks didn’t line the horizon and societal ills common today were nowhere to be found, and he painted this world in his landscapes.

This Sunday, an opportunity exists to gain a closer look into Wood’s world as Laural Ronk, director of the Bluffs Arts Council, and Dick Miller, chairman of the Bluffs Arts Council Corn Room Restoration Committee, will give a presentation at the Eldon Library Hall from 2 to 3 pm on the efforts to recover what is left of one of three Grant Wood murals.

To provide some history: In 1926 hotelier Eugene Eppley, commissioned Wood to paint four murals in dining rooms of his hotels in Sioux City, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs.

“Three of the murals were `corn murals' (one in each hotel). They were painted to fill the room. The corn murals were supposed to make viewers feel as if they were sitting in an Iowa field with tall stalks of corn, rolling hills and barns dotting the horizon. The mural is a typical example of the kinds of landscape visible in the surrounding countryside.”    - Art Talk

Two of the Corn Murals were in the Sioux City and Cedar Rapids hotels and are preserved in their entirety and on display in Sioux City Art Center and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. The third, the mural in Council Bluffs at the Hotel Chieftain, wasn’t as lucky.

In 1970 when the hotel was in the process of being converted into apartments the new owners, upon being told the murals were unsalvageable, allowed anyone to come and take down the murals under the condition they were not sold and the pieces would be restored. Later research revealed segments of the mural were taken down and—for the most part—kept safe and, in some cases, restored.

One might ask why the mural segments, after all these years, are important as there are two other complete murals elsewhere in the state. An answer can be found in an entry concerning the murals from the Traditional Fine Arts Association.

“Grant Wood's Corn Room Mural is historically important because it shows that Wood was developing the ideas and approaches that would become Regionalism several years before he produced his first clearly-Regionalist works and achieved critical success with his invention: Woman with Plants (1929) and American Gothic (1930)... Wood's concerns with landscape, visible in the Corn Room Mural, remain a constant reference point for his Regionalist works: it appears as the background to Woman with Plants and in the famous house seen behind the couple in American Gothic.”

To preserve this history, in 2008 the Bluffs Arts Council began a campaign to raise funds to obtain the remaining pieces of Wood’s Corn Room Mural painted for the Hotel Chieftain and restore them for viewing. Thus far, 27 segments of the mural have been identified and the Bluffs Arts Council has obtained 11 of them, with several displayed in the lobby of the Pottawattamie Courthouse in Council Bluffs.

So this Sunday afternoon, for one hour, make a point to stop by the Library Hall and hear what Ronk and Miller have to say. After all, they are devoting their time and energy to preserve a piece of Grant Wood for future generations. Something that is very dear to anyone associated with the American Gothic House Center.

The presentation is sponsored by the American Gothic House Center and the Ottumwa Area Arts Council. Hope to see you Sunday.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Egg Roll inside, but a success

American Gothic House Center

Rain did not deter the planned Easter activities last Friday, as over 175 children took part in the first annual Easter Egg Roll at “our White House.”

Originally planned for the lawn at the American Gothic House Center, steady rainfall forced the activities inside to the Eldon Library Hall, adjacent to the library on the main thoroughfare in town. Although a bit cramped, the kids didn’t seem to mind, as each moved from station to station, all manned by G.A.T.E volunteers and local townspeople.

Donna Jeffries was in charge at the Easter Egg Roll station where lanes were marked with tape on the floor. Each child was issued a large wooden spoon and a hard-boiled egg was placed in the lane in front of them. On the command of “go” the contestants guided the egg—using only the spoon for propulsion and steering—to the finish line where all received a bag of candy. Besides candy, every bag contained an American Gothic House bookmark and pencil.

At the “bunny ear” table Nancy Teubel, Martha Bedford and plenty of parents, helped the children glue and paste ears together. It was a three-step process, with the first step fitting the band to the child’s head. The second step was to glue the parts of the ears together, then lastly staple the ears to the headband. As the afternoon passed the library hall was a sea of bunny ears perched precariously on each child’s head.

Pris Coffman, along with some help, guided the children through making a Peek-A-Boo Chick. This was a rather elaborate creation resulting in a hinged paper egg that, when tilted to one side, revealed a baby chick.

Rumors had it there were Secret Service agents at the hall (the only people in attendance wearing black suits and sunglasses and talking into their lapels) on a special mission from the White House to monitor the Egg Roll and other activities. It is unconfirmed but word has it the Secret Service were so impressed with the Peek-A-Boo Chick creations that arrangements were made to have the same activity on the following Monday at the White House.

No Easter activity would be complete without the Easter Bunny and, sure enough one was one hand. Originally the plan was to have children pose with the Easter Bunny in front of the American Gothic House, but since this wasn’t possible a facsimile of the house was used a backdrop for the photos. Margie Stansberry assisted in taking pictures and everyone received a 4x6 memory of the day. Paige Evans played the role of the Easter Bunny and did it so well perhaps a career in acting is in her future.

At yet another station Cindy Shephard stepped away from her day job as elementary principal and curriculum director at the Cardinal Schools and read to all who gathered around. There was no report back from the children as to how well their principal did, but if asked, I am sure each would have glowing praise. After all, she is the principal.

All total 10 volunteers stepped in to lend a hand at the event, not including those who helped in the pre-party logistics, such as bagging 125 sacks of candy, making 75 commemorative eggs and setting up the hall. From this observer’s vantage point—and the Secret Service agents—G.A.T.E and the staff from the American Gothic House Center can consider the inaugural Egg Roll a success.



Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shades of tan soon to be replaced—we hope

American Gothic House Center
It appears that spring might well be here. The temperature has become tolerable, there is an absence of chill in the air and the birds have been singing of a morning. It’s about time, after all April is across the street.

Although slow in coming, I prefer a spring such as the one we’ve had. I like to back into the season, having it approach gradually as opposed to a winter coat one day and shorts the next. Last year was a prime example of this and what can happen if spring comes too quickly and early.

As you may recall, last March ushered in 80-plus degree days causing flowers to bloom early, farmers to plant crops weeks before normal and, worst of all, required homeowners such as myself to mow the grass. As far as I am concerned there should be a Congressional mandate prohibiting lawn mowing before April.

Then we all know what happened after the early spring—heat and lots of it. In fact the ensuing summer was one of the hottest on record. The only good that came out of it was the lawn mower went in storage for July, August and most of September. To borrow from a cliché, every cloud does have its silver lining.

Although I favor spring to approach slowly, this year I am particularly looking forward to it as the Center needs color. Over the winter I have been struck with the beauty of the American Gothic House and the adjacent Center covered with a blanket of snow with all color absent. Snow somehow transforms these two buildings into safe, peaceful, and warm places that project an image fit for canvas. However, between snows all that can be observed are shades of tan.

Tan works well in the warm months when it is offset by green grass, vibrant hues from the wildflowers and heavy green leaves on the trees. But after the leaves fall and the wildflowers go dormant all that remain are shades of tan. The buildings are a light tan, the mulch in the wildflower garden is a darker shade of tan, the rocks that surround the Center are varying shades of tan and the grass—also dormant—is yet another shade of tan. Unless you are a fan of khaki clothing this is a lot of tan.

Speaking of khaki, my first dress uniform in the Army was the summer khakis. It remained my favorite uniform long after it was taken out of service in the mid-1980s. What made it appealing wasn’t the khaki coloring itself, it was the way the color of the accompanying accoutrements—medals, the crisp yellow stripes of rank outlined with green, the service medals pinned over the left pocket and the black name tape over the right virtually gleamed against the neutral hue of the uniform. It looked sharp. It reminds me of the house and Center in spring, summer and fall.

In the cold months the buildings are tall soldiers outfitted with crisp, starched uniforms ready for inspection. But as any soldier that has stood an inspection knows, the uniform—sans accoutrements—is like a painting, the blank canvas of which the artist applies the color to make the whole. In the soldier’s case the color is the stripes earned, the ribbons awarded, the unit patch, the shiny black name tag. Once these are applied the uniform—and the soldier—becomes whole.

Such as it is here at the American Gothic House Center, the buildings are the blank canvas. The color is the trees, flowers and visitors with their summer clothing posing in front of the house for a photo in their own period uniforms. It makes the place complete and brings a smile to the observer’s face. It’s a good place to be.

Remember, the first annul Easter Egg Roll at “our White House”—actually tan—will be held Saturday from 1 to 3 pm. In the form of eggs and children the grounds of the Center will come alive with much-needed color. It’s about time.


Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Egg Roll tradition extends to Eldon

As many know now, Gothic Area Tourism of Eldon and the American Gothic House Center are teaming up for the first-ever Easter Egg Roll here at the Center on Saturday, March 30. Much preparation has been done for the event and volunteers and staff are looking forward to it—and hoping for a bright, sunny day. However, it does call for some reflection. Why roll Easter Eggs?

Since Easter traditionally is a religious holiday, rolling the eggs signifies rolling the stone away from Christ’s tomb. I had no idea of this symbolism and I diligently sat through years of Sunday School classes. I must have missed that somewhere. So it goes with bunnies and eggs in the broader sense as both represent, if not religiosity, a rebirth that accompanies spring. A very brief synopsis concerning the traditional Easter symbols can be found at About.com. Check it out.

All that information aside, the Egg Roll at the Center is modeled after the traditional Egg Roll at the White House, the big one in Washington D.C. Ever wonder how that tradition got started?

Evidently, according to the White House Historical Association, the beginnings are a bit murky as initially, in the 1870s, it was an impromptu affair held on the grounds of the United States Capitol. New landscaping in 1876 prompted Congress to pass a bill prohibiting the activity and President Grant passed it into law in 1876. Needless to say this didn’t set well with area children and adults. That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Congress passing a bill that annoys people. Good thing that doesn’t happen today.

In 1877—the first year the ban went into effect—rain cancelled all outdoor activities so it was moot. However, when egg rollers showed up in 1878 they were ejected by Capitol Hill police. Not to be deterred the children made a bee line for the White House in hopes the sitting president—Rutherford B. Hayes—would grant them access. He did and a tradition was born.

Subsequent presidents continued with the tradition with many putting their own spin on the Monday activity. Grover Cleveland invited the egg rollers, with their baskets of hard-boiled eggs, into the East Room for a reception. This turned out to be a bit messy as eggs fell from baskets and were ground into the carpeting thus ruining it. Cleveland wasn’t too upset, however, as when he returned to the White House later for another term he continued the tradition.

President Benjamin Harrison decided the affair needed some music and included the United States Marine Band, known as “The President’s Own,” directed by none other than John Philip Sousa, to perform.

As things go, the egg roll became quite an attraction and eventually measures were taken to limit the number of people on the South Lawn. A one grown child-one grown adults rule was instituted but this also didn’t go as expected and the rule was abused (imagine that). As it turned out kids would charge a fee to adults (unrelated to them) which would allow them through the gates and gain access to the South Lawn. The arrangement got so out of hand in 1939 Secret Service agents were stationed at the White House gates.

First Ladies have always been involved with the Easter Egg Roll, with many putting their own personal touch to it. In 1929, Lou Hoover introduced folk dancing. Pat Nixon introduced an Easter Egg hunt using real eggs, replacing the hard-boiled ones used in previous rolls and hunts. For obvious reasons this was a one-time only endeavor. Nixon also introduced the Easter Bunny to the event and he (or she) has become a fixture since.

First Lady Nixon was also the first to give something to each participant—a certificate of participation. By extension, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter handed out plastic eggs with personal notes inside. President Reagan and Nancy hosted an egg hunt with wooden eggs inscribed with signatures of notable people. Soon afterwards wooden eggs became the official souvenir of the Egg Roll with each inscribed with the signature of the President and the First Lady.

Since this year is the first year for the Easter Egg Roll at "our White House" there are not any traditions to uphold, rather it is time to make some. Be a part of tradition in the making by coming to the American Gothic House Center on Saturday, March 30 at 1 pm to roll eggs, receive a commemorative egg, play games, win prizes and see the Easter Bunny, just like at the real White House.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 | theamericangothichouse@gmail.com