Cedar Rapids Weather
Grant Wood Cultural District Certified by the State Historical Society of Iowa
By Diana Nollen, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Grant Wood’s dreamscape is moving closer to a reality in downtown Cedar Rapids’ landscape.
“He always saw what he was doing as a way of developing a community,” said Terry Pitts, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. “He was never egocentric or egotistical about his art. His fantasy was trying to turn some of the other garages and lofts along Turner Alley into a sort of Greenwich Village.
“He wanted lots of artist to come together. ... He wanted painters, musicians and theater people to interact, to live together and influence each other.”
And now his home/studio at 5 Turner Alley, 810 Second Ave. SE, is one of the key starting points for the Grant Wood Cultural District, certified by the State Historical Society of Iowa. The public is invited to attend a formal announcement and sign dedication ceremony at 1:15 p.m. today (7/12/10) at that loft apartment where Wood painted his iconic “American Gothic” in 1930.
The walking district incorporates much of the area between Wood’s studio, following the curve of Interstate 380 across the river, then over to Eighth Avenue and the area for the proposed outdoor amphitheater.
Among the region’s many attractions are the Iowa Masonic Library, the Scottish Rite Temple and the Carl and Mary Koehler History Center; the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, home to the world’s largest collection of Wood’s creations; Theatre Cedar Rapids and the Paramount Theatre; the restored Grant Wood stained glass window in the Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island; the U.S. Cellular Center; as well as businesses, restaurants and nightlife hotspots.
Vanessa Solesbee, operations director for the Cedar Rapids Downtown District
“The cultural district designation means you already have an established, thriving center of cultural venues and activities,” said Vanessa Solesbee, operations director for the Cedar Rapids Downtown District and part of the team making the cultural district application.
The area also draws residents and out-of-town visitors with all the festivals, parades and farmers markets in and around Greene Square Park.
“Visitors can come to the district and expect there to be a lot of things to do,” Solesbee said. “It’s a great marketing tool for the city. We can work with the Convention & Visitors Bureau and our Chamber partner organizations to promote what we have here and what we’re going to have here.”
She anticipates seeking grants to pay for promotional activities and materials, as well as in-kind contributions from the various downtown stakeholders, including businesses and cultural groups.
The designation also speaks volumes about the city’s comeback from the 2008 floods, said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs in Des Moines.
“It provides qualified buildings in that district with historic tax credits,” Pederson said. “As businesses open up and come back and restore some of the historic buildings, you’ll see a ripple effect of other businesses opening up, creating a sense of place, which Cedar Rapids has done beautifully since the floods. This can be seen as a silver lining in what was a horrible situation for our second largest city in Iowa. …
“You can pat yourselves on the back in Cedar Rapids,” Pederson said. “I know it’s been a really hard two years. We as a state tried really heard to help through various programs to help recovery efforts. You’re leading the way in getting things back up and running again.”
“For those of us who live here, this acknowledges from outside sources the importance and validity of a particular area of town,” said Peggy Whitworth of Cedar Rapids, an arts and cultural liaison in the city, who also is involved with the state Department of Cultural Affairs and the state Historical Society board.
“For people coming in from out-of-town seeking a Grant Wood experience, this helps them find out where that is,” she said.
“One of the things I hope comes out of this by naming and acknowledging Grant Wood and his importance is for young people to have this sense of encouragement, that by following your talents and your interests, it is possible to have a creative life and also to leave a very lasting legacy,” Whitworth said.
“I hope something like this is a source of encouragement for young people so that maybe we will have another very well-known artist come from this area.”
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