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Planning your trip to Grant Wood's Iowa

October 25, 2009|By Jay Jones | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Capturing the essence of Grant Wood's inspiration is best done by spending a couple of days in eastern Iowa.

Grant Wood Art Gallery

Start at the Grant Wood Art Gallery in downtown Anamosa. The gallery reveals the history of Wood's life through photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, and prints of many of his paintings. A selection of gifts features Wood's portrayals of the surrounding countryside. The gallery is open from 1 to 4 p.m. seven days a week, year-round. Donations are welcome.

Volunteers such as John and Cecilia Hatcher gladly direct guests to nearby sites associated with Wood. They include Stone City, the village where Wood helped run an artists colony during the Depression. A two-week course cost $15. A room was another two bucks a week; (319) 462-4267, www.grantwood.

Grant Wood Scenic Byway

The Grant Wood Scenic Byway begins at the edge of Anamosa and meanders east-northeast for 68 miles, ending in the town of Bellevue, along the Mississippi River. Along the road, visitors can see the one-room schoolhouse Wood attended as well as the countless vistas that influenced his work; ww.byways.org/explore.

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is open every day except Monday. Admission is $5 for adults; children 18 and under are admitted free; (319) 366-7503, www.crma.org.

Grant Wood Studio and Visitor Center

The Grant Wood Studio and Visitor Center is usually open weekends, but call ahead to make sure. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors (62 ) and children ages 6 to 18; (319) 366-7503.

The "American Gothic" farmhouse

The backdrop for Wood's famous painting is near Eldon, Iowa, 2 1/2 hours south of Cedar Rapids. Particularly striking in the spring and fall, the house is mainly used as a backdrop for couples wanting to strike a grumpy pose for a photograph. Wood's sister, Nan, was the model for the dour farm wife. The farmer -- in fact, Wood's dentist -- also seemed to be having a bad day. So, understandably, not everyone was enamored with the finished work. "It sort of supported the idea . . . that Midwest people were stern and puritanical," explains museum curator Sean Ulmer. "[Wood] had to do a little bit of backpedaling with the women of Iowa." Open daily; donations welcome; (641) 652-3352, www.wapellocounty.org/americangothic.

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