Cedar Rapids is host to several world-class museums full of art work and artifacts that are sure to surprise and delight visitors. We checked with museum professionals around town to hear about the most prized works in their collection.
1. National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
It’s unlikely to surprise visitors of the Czech & Slovak Museum that their statue of Tomáš Masaryk, famed president of Czechoslovakia, is a highlight of the “Faces of Freedom” gallery tour. But it’s not every day that you see a car parked inside the gallery as well. The museum has a Tatra secret police automobile on display, and the rear-engine vehicle is sure to make an impression.
2. Veteran’s Memorial Building
The “Memorial Window” at the Veteran’s Memorial Building is perhaps the most unique Grant Wood pieces, standing 24 feet high with stained glass full of color. As an added bonus, the museum within the building also has “Study for WWI Soldier” (a portion of the window) on view.
It can be hard to pick a favorite room in a mansion, especially when there’s a Tahitian Room and Grizzly Bar in the basement. But at Brucemore, a most notable highlight of the historic home’s tour is the sleeping porch designed by Grant Wood. An absolutely unique, fascinating and unexpected work by Iowa’s most famous artist, the sleeping porch reflects the Douglas (and Hall) family’s long commitment to nurturing local artistry. The porch has undergone substantial preservation work and features a new interactive exhibit and observation platform. Of course the historic gardens and park-like grounds are worth the visit as well.
4. African American Museum of Iowa
You’ll not want to miss catching a glance of the Obama podium while at the African American Museum. The podium was used by Barack Obama when he campaigned in Iowa for the Presidential election and is signed by the former President. Also, make sure to stop and check out the case of items related to Buxton, Iowa, a coal mining town, owned by Consolidated Coal Company from about 1900 to 1920. The majority of Buxton’s residents were African American and these items, including a miner’s lamp and children’s toys, were found on an archeological dig in the early 2000s.
5. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
It’s not technically the Grant Wood museum, but when you own the world’s largest collection of art created by him, visitors start to notice. “Woman with Plants” is arguably Wood’s most notable piece owned by the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, but she’s headed east from March through June this year to be part of a Grant Wood exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. While she’s gone, there will be plenty of other works by Grant Wood on display, and it’s likely they are pieces you’ve not seen before.
6. Iowa Masonic Library & Museum
Among the many unique items at the Iowa Masonic Library & Museum – ancient Egyptian pottery, a Grant Wood painting, and autographed Lincoln letter and even a lock of George Washington’s hair, to name a few – perhaps the most prized item in their collection s an inlaid wooden table often used during tours to explain what Masonry is.
7. Art About Town
Cedar Rapids has a special spot, or spots really, for public art. From large curling ribbons made of metal in the heart of downtown’s Greene Square Park, to a mosaic arch along the river and bright spaghetti-like rods outside the Linn County offices, if you take a drive around town you’re sure to see distinctive sculptures pop up all over town. Then head to Marion, where they’ve taken over a whole alley to celebrate imaginative creations.