The UI leases historic Grant Wood House

BY YUN LIN | JULY 08, 2015 5:00 AM

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Visiting scholars and faculty members will have the chance to stay in what was once the home of Iowa’s most famous artist.

Grant Wood, who painted, among many other works, the iconic American Gothic, originally hailed from the state and was once a faculty member at the University of Iowa, where he taught painting classes in the School of Art in the 1930s.

The house he lived for seven years and turned into an art studio near the end of his life will be reborn as the main attraction of an “art colony” in which artists of all types can live and work together.

The state Board of Regents recently approved the 20-year leases of four homes on Burlington Street, as well as the Grant Wood House, 1142 E. Court St., located behind them, said David Kieft, the UI business manager and director of university real estate.

“The four residences will be used to house visiting faculty and scholars who come to Iowa City to spend a semester or year with the School of Art & Art History,” Kieft said.

The house, which Wood nicknamed 1142, is owned and occupied by Iowa City resident Jim Hayes.

“Hayes will continue to own and live in the home and will donate this property to the UI after his death,” said Maura Pilcher, the director of the Grant Wood Art Colony.

UI spokesperson Tom Moore said the university will work to bring Wood’s vision of establishing art colonies to life.

“The art colony would function as a home base for visiting professors and fellows,” Moore said.

“With an emphasis on having them share their talents not only here in Iowa City but in communities across the state.”

The total cost of the leases on the four homes on Burlington Street is a combined $4,635 per month, he said.

Before Wood came to the university, he attempted to start a similar art colony in Stone City, Iowa, in 1932, although because of financial troubles, it closed a year later.

“It will be a great opportunity to celebrate what Grant Wood did here at the University of Iowa,” Pilcher said. “We can celebrate his ideas of having those thought-makers at UI to continue that tradition.”

Pilcher said having a physical space is essential to continue the mission Wood’s began in the 1920s and 1930s of bringing people together to create and think.

The art colony began in the spring of 2011, and it annually provides three one-year post-M.F.A. or post-doctoral fellowships in painting, printmaking, and performance.

“It brings people from all over the world to the University of Iowa to share what they want to do and take action on what they believe in,” Pilcher said.

According to regent documents, not all the buildings are currently in use. Only two of the Burlington Street houses are occupied; the program is eventually expected to expand and include as many as seven fellows.

“This is really great program because we can ensure high-quality artists come in to work with students,” Pilcher said. “Also, it is a very generous program because they can get great accommodations, salary, and also can focus on their work.”

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