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Home > Exhibitions > Celebrating 50 Years of Art and Local History: Musser Museum Anniversary Exhibition

Celebrating 50 Years of Art and Local History: Musser Museum Anniversary Exhibition

August 16 - January 3, 2016

Celebrating 50 Years of Art and Local History: Musser Museum Anniversary Exhibition

The Muscatine community is invited to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Muscatine Art Center/Laura Musser Museum. On Sunday, August 16, the Art Center will open special exhibitions throughout the facility. Rooms throughout the Musser Mansion will have displays of elegant gowns, handsome suits, domestic servants’ uniforms, colorful day dresses, and intricate accessories. Laura Musser’s wedding dress will be on view in the master bedroom, and display cases will feature Musser/McColm personal items, belongings of Laura’s mother and father, and other family memorabilia. 

“The gowns are especially stunning. Some of the fabrics are quite fragile, limiting the number of times that the Art Center can place the pieces on view. The detail is impressive,” states Director Melanie Alexander. “For example, Laura Musser McColm had a gown designed specifically to wear to Madame Butterfly. The gown has a wing-like effect with sheer black fabric attaching to the fingers.”

In addition to the clothing displays, historic photographs and other archival materials have been placed throughout the Musser Mansion. Visitors will be able to view the spaces as they are today and compare with the historic photographs. 

The Stanley Gallery features 50 years of collecting both works of art and local artifacts. The two-dimensional works of art from the permanent collection are presented in chronological order from the year in which the item was added to the collection. “Some works of art in this exhibition are not often on view, and it is unusual to hang works by these artists together,” explains Alexander. “A painting by Marvin Cone is in the same space as a print by Mauricio Lasansky. On the middle floor of the Stanley Gallery, a six foot by six foot Arthur Osver (painted with latex) is presented near Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Lotus (oil on canvas). Also in the exhibition are works by Grant Wood, Beth Van Hoesen, and John Doyle, Roland Poska. Unless a person has participated in a behind-the-scenes tour, it is challenging to provide visitors with an understanding of the true scope of the collection.”

Curator/Registrar Virginia Cooper adds, “Due to the foresight and knowledge of the Art Center’s collection policy, by its founder’s, Fine Arts Association, board member and directors, the collections have grown to be among the  most distinguished held by a small museum in the Midwest. This dynamic, historic museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, which recognizes high standards and public accountability. The Art Center continues to awe out of town visitors and is a source of pride and heritage for the local community. The anniversary exhibit will highlight the landmark, milestone, and historically important works that have been added to the collection since 1965."

Also on display in the Stanley Gallery is a sampling of highlights from the Muscatine history collection. Again, it is not possible to put out every item that is worthy of being part of the 50th anniversary exhibition. To help present the collection, the Art Center staff challenged Muscatine artist, Randy Richmond, to use photography to show the scope of the collection, provide a glimpse of some of the spaces that are usually off-limits to most visitors, and hint at the museum methods used to preserve collections for future generations. Richmond’s photographs will be displayed in the Stanley Gallery and throughout the facility with several works exhibited in the Music Room and Dressing Room in the Musser Mansion.

The Musser Museum Gallery will display the works of art from the Mary Musser Gilmore Collection. Many works from this collection are on long-term view in second floor hallway of the house. The collection includes works  by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy, George Rouault, Henri Matisse, and other internationally recognized artists. The initial gift of twenty-seven works was received in 1992.  In 2010, an additional eleven works of art from the Gilmore Collection were gifted to the Muscatine Art Center via the Sarah King Wilmer estate, daughter of Mary Musser Gilmore.

On the main floor of the mansion, landmark pieces from the Mississippi River Collection will be supplemented with some rarely-on-view works from the River Collection. “Many Muscatine-natives love ‘View of the Mississippi from Wyoming Hill’ by William Bunn, painted in 1946,” comments Alexander. “Bunn was born in Muscatine, studied under Grant Wood, and completed several post office murals in Iowa. ‘Wyoming Hill’ will hang in the Library for the 50th Anniversary exhibition.”
The public is invited to celebrations beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 16th. Several speakers will provide reflections on the first 50 years of the organization’s history. Mayor DeWayne Hopkins will read the City of Muscatine’s proclamation, recognizing the 50th anniversary. Around 2:30 p.m., the Art Center will unveil the oil painting “Vegetable Gardens” by Grant Wood. The work was acquired to commemorate the 50th anniversary. At 2:30 p.m., the Creepin’ Charlies will perform, and refreshments will be served.

EVENT DETAILS: Sunday, August 16, 2015 from 2 to 4 p.m. – Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Muscatine Art Center/Laura Musser Museum. A special program will begin at 2 p.m. Admission is FREE.

EXHIBITION DETAILS: The exhibition, “Celebrating 50 Years of Art and Local History: Musser Museum Anniversary” will be on view from August 16, 2015 through January 3, 2016.
The Muscatine Art Center is located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine, Iowa. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday evenings until 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. Visit for more information about programs and events and to download a class brochure.