Iowa is home to works of art by some of the most respected artists in the world. Add these art museums to your next Iowa road trip and prepare to be awed by works from around the world as well as local collections.
Cedar Rapids: The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art houses the world’s largest collection of Grant Wood paintings and owns the property at 5 Turner Alley that Wood used as a home and studio from 1924-1934. It was in this studio that he painted one of the world’s most famous works of art – American Gothic – which the Art Institute of Chicago purchased in 1930 and still displays.
Charles City: Seventy-seven works of art from artists including Rembrandt, Picasso, Dali and Grant Wood are on display at the Charles City Public Library's Mooney Art Collection. Arthur Mooney, who moved to Charles City as a child, bequeathed the collection to the library. After nearly 60 years in storage, a gallery was added to the library in 2000 to exhibit the pieces.
Clarinda: In 2014, Robert and Karen Duncan, both Clarinda natives, renovated the town’s former Carnegie library to house their eclectic assortment of world-class contemporary art. Described as one of the top 50 private collections in the country, the couple owns more than 2,000 works of art. Rotating exhibits draw from these holdings, with new themed exhibitions installed twice a year.
Council Bluffs: A planning effort in 2004 designated more than 50 sites for potential placement of public art as part of the Iowa West collection. So far, nine artists have been commissioned to create a multitude of contemporary sculptures. Completed projects include the Bayliss Park fountain, the five-acre Great Lawn at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park and Gateway, a seven-story tall sculpture that frames the 8th Street Viaduct.
Davenport: The Figge Art Museum’s 3,000 permanent holdings are testimony to seven decades of philanthropy and civic pride. The collections, organized into seven areas, offer a distinct look at regional, national and international art from the 15th century to the present.
Des Moines: Internationally recognized architects Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei and Richard Meier constructed the Des Moines Art Center facility in phases. The more than 5,000 piece collection includes artwork from the 19th century to the present.
Des Moines: The roughly four-acre park on the western edge of downtown includes works by 22 of the world’s most celebrated artists. Among the signature pieces is the iconic Nomade by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, a 27-foot-tall human form made of a latticework of steel letters, and Yayoi Kusama's polka-dotted Pumpkin (L).
Between Madrid and Woodward: The half-mile, 13-story high bridge is the signature component of the High Trestle Trail (which runs 25 miles from Ankeny to Woodward). Forty-one steel “frames” over the bridge represent support cribs within a historic coal mine, a nod to the area’s mining history. The “frames” light up with blue LED lights at dusk.
Mason City: The MacNider Art Museum is a Tudor-style mansion that features permanent exhibits of 19th and 20th-century American art and the largest collection of puppets, marionettes and related props from famous puppeteer Bil Baird, including those seen in The Sound of Music.
Okoboji: Six galleries showcase permanent and traveling exhibitions from local, regional and national artists. The Pearson Lakes Art Center houses the second largest collection of Russian Impressionist paintings outside of Russia.
Sioux City: More than 1,000 pieces from Midwestern, national and international artists make up the permanent collection at the Sioux City Art Center. Grant Wood’s Corn Mural is on extended display in a room designed just for the work.
Waterloo: The permanent collection at the Waterloo Center for the Arts has been curated for more than 50 years and includes Midwestern artists like Grant Wood and Marvin Cone, American decorative arts, international folk art and the largest public collection of Haitian art in the United States.
Grinnell: Opened 20 years ago to enhance the college's art presence, this college campus gallery features major exhibitions from regional, national and international artists. The state-of-the-art space welcomes visitors to explore its 7,400 square feet of creativity and rotating exhibits located at the heart of the college's Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Admission is free.
Dubuque: Established in 1874, the Dubuque Museum of Art is Iowa's oldest cultural institution. Home to over 2,200 works, it boasts one of the world's largest collections of Grant Wood art and the rare complete collection of Edward S. Curtis' photogravures of The North American Indian. Stop by to enjoy these unique exhibits as well as gallery tours, outreach programs and educational classes.
Iowa City: Recently reopened in a new, state-of-the-art building adjacent to the university's Main Library, the Stanely Museum of Art now holds one of the nation's foremost university collections. With artwork from around the world, including a renowned African art collection, paintings, sculptures and works on everything from paper to textiles, metalwork and ceramics, this is a must-stop for any art enthusiast.