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Where genius lived

By John W. Barry, courtesy Figge Art Museums Grant Wood Archives

Strolling through museums and looking at the work of masters is always exciting. Strolling through the homes and workshops of where these masters lived, drew inspiration and crafted some of the most famous art in America is awe-inspiring.

From humble abodes to sprawling compounds, these destinations have one thing in common: It is always obvious that the work was most important. Painter Georgia O’Keeffe cared little about material possessions; it was her New Mexico surroundings that gave her inspiration.

Artist Grant Wood needed painting racks to store his work within his tiny living and working space.

And it took years for woodworker Sam Maloof to build the furniture for every room in his sprawling compound because he patiently waited until he could afford the perfect choice of timber.

These homes and workshops are museums themselves.

Grant Wood Studio
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Grant Wood lived and worked at his tiny Cedar Rapids studio from 1924 through 1935. His most famous painting, “American Gothic,” was painted in the studio in 1930.

“The ground floor of the building that was once a carriage house is now the visitor center where groups are first greeted with a video and memorabilia,” said Kristan Hellige, communications coordinator for the studio. “The second floor, where Wood lived and worked, is full of personal touches, including painting racks that could be rolled away and beds that are hidden from view.

“It’s very interesting to see how he used space wisely.”

Although “American Gothic” is housed at the Art Institute in Chicago, groups can see the largest collection of Grant’s work at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, located just a few blocks from the studio.

319-366-7503, ext. 203

Perhaps the most famous sculptor of public monuments, Daniel Chester French, creator of the “Minute Man” in Concord, New Hampshire, and the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, lived and worked at Chesterwood for 36 years.

“Considered the jewel of the Berkshires, this mountaintop estate is located on 122 acres.

Groups have access to three buildings on this scenic property: the barn, the studio and French’s magnificent residence,” said Lisa Reynolds, office manager.

The barn has been converted to a gallery and features exhibits on French’s life and work. French’s sculptures dot the property and buildings, and groups are especially impressed with time in the studio.

Although the structure has ample windows and natural light, French had a railroad track system built so he could wheel his works in progress outside.

A gentleman’s garden, a trail through the woods and a view of Monument Mountain are more offerings at Chesterwood.