What to see (for free!) at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art this summer

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Summer heat got you down? Consider cooling off with A/C and art.

Starting Friday, July 1 and continuing through Sept. 4, entry to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art will be free to all for the 13th year in a row. This summer the museum’s curator Kate Kunau has put together a “fun, vibrant collection of exhibitions,” sure to spark joy in even the most heat-exhausted among us. Here’s a peek at what free summer at the CRMA has in store:

Tomàs and Charlie Lasansky: An Artistic Union

Charlie Lasansky, Frida with Red and Pink Polkadot, 2020, acrylic, ink, gold leaf, collage, paper weaving and pencil on paper, 39 x 28 ½ inches, courtesy of the artist. L2022.048. — courtesy of CRMA

An Artistic Union is the first joint exhibition of Tomàs Lasansky, youngest son of Argentinian printmaker Mauricio Lasansky, his wife Charlie’s work. For more than 30 years, these two artists and Iowa Citians have worked in adjacent studios creating pieces that depict both famous and familial figures.

“It’s really interesting … to be able to see their work in conjunction [because] they handle a lot of the same subject matter,” Kunau said. “I think it’s really fascinating to just see how their careers have dovetailed with each other and kind of gone in and out of these places of inspiration.”

Tomás Lasansky, Tomás and Charlie, 2021. Pencil on paper, 48 x 64 in. On loan courtesy of the artist. L2022.038. — courtesy of CRMA

While the exhibit focuses on the relationship between Tomàs and Charlie’s work, the connection between their art is not the only one to be explored in the CRMA.

“Visitors after they go to the Tomàs and Charlie Lasansky exhibition should definitely go upstairs to four galleries that we have in the work of Mauricio Lasansky,” said Sean Ulmer, the museum’s executive director. “There are interesting comparisons to be made between father and son and father and daughter in law.”

Mauricio Lasansky
Mauricio Lasansky and students in printmaking studio, The University of Iowa, 1960. Photo by Frederick Wallace. — courtesy of Iowa Digital Library

Although Ulmer feels that choosing a favorite exhibition is, “a little like choosing between your children,” he’s particularly excited about An Artistic Union.

“It is stunning,” Ulmer said. “And that’s not a term that I use all the time. It is visually dazzling … and I think people will be really, really surprised, amazed, excited and inspired by looking at it.”

Eve Drewelowe: Painting Her Way

Eve Drewelowe, Swamp and Summit, 1950, oil on canvas, 29 ½ x 35 inches, courtesy of The University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, L2022.021. — courtesy of CRMA

Eve Drewelowe, despite being born in New Hampton, Iowa at the turn of the 20th century, is not well known locally. However, Kunau hopes this exhibition will change that by exposing Drewelowe’s work to a wider audience.

“We don’t hear much about female regionalist artists, and so I thought [exhibiting Drewelowe] was a good opportunity to focus on a woman artist who was doing the same thing [as Grant Wood and Marvin Cone] and painting her immediate surroundings,” Kunau said.

After attending the University of Iowa where she was the first to receive a master of arts degree, Drewelowe moved to Boulder, Colorado and began painting vibrant Western landscapes — work that is now the focus of Painting Her Way.

“There’s so much motion and dynamism in them,” Kunau said. “She was a really early environmentalist and identified by that term. So there’s just so much love that she has in all of her paintings. You can really feel the intensity of her emotion.”

While Ulmer’s favorite exhibition is the Lasanskys’ An Artistic Union, Kunau has a soft spot for Drewelowe’s work.

“She’s an artist who was very successful during her lifetime,” Kunau said. “But as happens, especially to women artists, she’s kind of disappeared since then. So I’m really excited to be able to share her with people again.”

Abstract Ideas: Abstract Art from the Collection

Emmi Whitehorse, Silver Spring, 1998, mixed media on paper on canvas, Museum purchase, 98.8. — courtesy of CRMA

The CRMA is renowned for having the world’s largest collection of Grant Wood works, as well as for its collection of Marvin Cone pieces. Both of these artists are known for their representational style and focus on regionalism. However, visitors to the museum may not be aware of its strong collection of abstract art.

“I thought it would be a fun time to go into [the abstract collection] and show people the cool abstract pieces that we have because [the museum has] been actively collecting those since the mid 20th century,” Kunau said.

Abstract Ideas presents work from post-World War II artists in order to investigate, “the various degrees of abstraction found in modern paintings and sculpture.” Emmi Whitehorse, a Navajo painter and printmaker who represents nature and landscape in abstraction, is one of these artists.

“My paintings tell the story of knowing land over time — of being completely, microcosmically within a place,” Whitehorse has said of her work. “They are purposefully meditative and mean to be seen slowly. The intricate language of symbols refer to specific plants, people and experiences.”

Silver Spring, a mixed media on paper on canvas by Whitehorse, speaks the most to Kunau of all the pieces in the exhibition.

“[It’s] beautiful,” Kunau said. “It’s very subtle … very smoky looking. I have it on a wall with some other kind of monochromatic pieces, but that one would definitely be my favorite.”

Dick Pinney: Jack of All Trades

Richard Pinney, Tribute to Gary L. Jost, 1982, wood, 26 ½ x 32 inches, gift of the Gary Jost family, 2009.056. — courtesy of CRMA

Richard “Dick” Pinney was both a favorite of the Cedar Rapids art scene and staple of the community for many years. After holding positions at local institutions such as the Cedar Rapids Tribune and Coe College, he began to make art full-time in 1975.

The exhibition, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of Pinney’s death in 1996, showcases his versatility as an artist who did everything from painting to woodworking to photography.

Kunau said the title of the exhibition “very much suggested itself,” as Pinney “was just a really creative guy and has this really wonderful mood that he created, and it still is very much [present] in Cedar Rapids.”

Pinney is perhaps best known for his wood “portraits,” many of which were crafted as commissions for local families.

“He kind of creates these symbolic portraits of people which are very unique,” Kunau said. “Very often they’ll include … what somebody did for their job, like a little Rockwell Collins [symbol], maybe the initials of their wife and hobbies they enjoyed.”

Although they’re not the “flashy pieces that people know him for” like the wood assemblages, Kunau is a fan of Pinney’s watercolors.

“[He painted] these beautiful watercolor landscapes,” Kunau said. “Watercolor is a pretty unforgiving medium, [but] I think he’s an extremely strong watercolor painter.”

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is open noon until 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; 10 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Thursday; and 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday.

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