Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On the web this week: Thanksgiving Treats

Happy Thanksgiving from the American Gothic House Center!

When you’ve finished your turkey and sweet potatoes but are still too full for dessert, take a look at these links for a treat that won’t add to the fullness in your belly.

Last Sunday afternoon the mini cooper car club returned to Eldon for the second time this fall. Gothic House tenant Beth Howard wasn’t home for their first visit, so they came back for round two—and this time, the trip included pie. See photos and read more about the event on Beth’s blog.

(Interested in traveling car clubs? I found this page of photos from the Heart of Iowa Miata Owners Group, who visited in 2009.)

Food bank in Portland, Oregon raises $600,000 with an American Gothic themed gala! The group created a Gothic House backdrop and their own version of the costumes to entertain guests. They did a great job and it looks like their guests had fun—but personally I think we do it better here in Eldon : )

Blogger brings her 89 year-old zip lining, sky diving mother-in-law to the American Gothic House Center.

Now, enjoy your pumpkin pie! And take a good, long nap in your favorite chair. That’s what I’m going to do!

Happy holidays!

Molly Moser
American Gothic House Center

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the web this week: Coming home to Iowa

The cold weather is really setting in now! The temperature is dropping, and with it the amount of travelers passing through. Fewer visitors mean a more intimate experience for each who enters the American Gothic House Center. Yesterday I met a couple from West Des Moines who stayed for nearly two hours and thoroughly absorbed every bit the Center has to offer. I am pleased to say that by the end of the visit, they were asking to get on this mailing list!

Connecting with travelers is a delight. Having lived a whole 23 years in the state, I thought I knew it pretty well. Silly me. You wouldn’t believe how much information visitors pass on about the unique details of Iowa! I’ve been told several times about a wrought iron sculpture of American Gothic located near Des Moines (I’d like to see this—any idea where it is?). One visitor described the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, and another theBily Clocks Museum in Spillville. There is so much to see and do in Iowa, it’s no wonder that after traveling Europe Grant Wood decided to come home. As my new friend living in the Gothic house tells me, “All the cool people come back.” Laura Millsaps, for the Ames Tribune, left Iowa for nearly two decades and returned to Ames four years ago. In an article written last week, she compares her relationship with her home state to Wood’s.

Certainly this links to the flood of guests lining up to vacation with the Gothic house tenant. Since her arrival in September, Beth has hosted friends from Mason City, Davenport, Des Moines, Portland, L.A., D.C., and Virginia. One couple even honeymooned at the house! Many comment on how well they sleep during their stay. Her current guest has spent the last week in Eldon doing some soul searching. “I don’t really want to leave,” she admitted yesterday.

Once again, I have to hand it to Grant Wood. When he painted Iowa, he wasn’t just showing off pretty farmscapes or immortalizing a character type. There is definitely something beneath the surface describing a deeper Iowa. It could be the spirit of the locals, with their commitment to giving back. In an article by Cindy Toopes of the Ottumwa Courier, Eldon Mayor Shirley Stacey is recognized for her contributions as a volunteer, GATE president, and member of the PEO. Perhaps the personality of Iowa can also be described by the fact that there are over 240 museums and historical societiesthroughout the state. Or maybe it’s something much simpler.

I recently chatted with a California native, back in Iowa to attend his class reunion at Central College in Pella. He described himself as being in California “for the time being,” and said he is “trying to escape.” The man quoted an article he read during his college years that has stuck with him. “Coming to Iowa is like taking off tight shoes. You didn’t know how bad it was until you took them off.”

After experiencing Europe, Wood made a conscious decision to return home. Something about the essence of Iowa drew him back in 1927, and it’s still drawing people in 2010.

So keep the travelers coming!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On the web this week: Thank you, Veterans.

In honor of Veterans and all they have sacrificed, consider a trip to the Cedar Rapids Art Museum (or at least to their website).

CRMA's exhibit The Grant Wood Window: Drawings for the Veterans Memorial Stained Glass Window Commission closes this Sunday, November 14. The featured drawings are the exact dimensions of the window itself—an impressive 24 feet high by 20 feet wide. The window is part of the Veteran’s Memorial building in Cedar Rapids and was rededicated earlier this year. It is valued at $3 million.

The Veterans Memorial Window was built in Germany, where Wood studied the art of stained glass from the most experienced craftsmen. Nan Wood Graham posed as the Lady of Peace and Victory, holding a palm branch and a laurel wreath. Six life sized soldiers in the design represent the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War I.

See photos of the window and learn more here.

Submit a gingerbread house for display at the American Gothic House Center

Want to recreate the Gothic House or another favorite bit of architecture in your kitchen? Love making gingerbread houses each year, but don’t know what to do with them? Enter your creation in the American Gothic House Center’s annual gingerbread house exhibit! Drop off your gingerbread house by 4 pm on November 30 and it will be on display December 1-14 (back to your home just in time for the holidays). Amateur builders are encouraged to participate! There is no entry fee—just have fun! Please call 641.652.3352 if you plan to submit a gingerbread house.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's the story with this new biography?

It has been years since a biography of Grant Wood was written, and the latest brings with it some controversy about Wood’s personal life. In preparation for author R. Tripp Evans’ presentations in Ottumwa and Eldon, I’ve discovered a few reviews in which Evans answers questions undoubtedly on all our minds.

“Why should anyone care about Wood’s sexual orientation?” asked Diana Nollen for Eastern Iowa Life.

“So why drag Wood's personal life into a modern-day culture war? Why not just appreciate his paintings on their artistic merit?” asked Michael Morain, Des Moines Register reporter.

There’s been so much talk about the author that ‘outted Grant Wood.’ Does the book acknowledge other equally significant aspects of Wood’s life which could have influenced his artwork and message? Evans gives his answer to this question in a Radio Iowa interview.

Deborah Solomon, author of the “Questions For” column in The Times Magazine, gave her opinion of Grant Wood, A Life in the New York Times last week. She referenced Eldon several times when analyzing American Gothic. (If you can’t view this article, you can sign up for a free online subscription to the NY Times—it only takes a few seconds.)

Evans will read an excerpt from his book and give a brief presentation at the Eldon Library Hall at 7 pm on Wednesday, November 10. There will be lots of time for discussion, so if you have more questions for the author, please bring them! If you can’t make it to Eldon, here’s a list of other lectures Evans is giving around the state.

What’s happening at the Center?

Last weekend’s Halloween party at the American Gothic House Center was attended by 61 children plus their parents. Here’s a huge thank you to all the volunteers, parents, and children who made the party a success! Kids made spider bracelets, vampire lollipops (a new take on the old ‘kleenex ghost’ lollipop), and frosted orange monster cookies. Party attendees raced to put a bib, overalls, and a jacket over their costumes and carry an ‘eyeball’ on a spoon across the lawn. A local wizard shared magic tricks, and many costumed children posed for a parody photo in front of the house. Look for pictures on our Facebook page!

Congratulations to our local game show winners! If you have not yet watched Loren and Mary Ellen Fligg’s Hollywood debut on Let’s Make a Deal, you can see the show here. Fast forward to the second half of the show to see what the Fliggs won!