Blanden Memorial Art Museum is a FD treasure

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what treasures we have in Fort Dodge. It is no one’s fault. Life is busy. It gets away from you in the blink of an eye.

The treasure I speak of is the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, that jewel in the cornfield. It is home to many educational and entertainment possibilities. The Blanden came into being in 1931 as the first permanent art facility in Iowa. It is a memorial to Elizabeth Mills Blanden from her husband, Charles Granger Blanden. Part of the Oak Hill district, it serves to cultivate creativity. The museum has a fantastic permanent art collection.

I give you first the cake and then the frosting. The Blanden has given and continues to give tours – sometimes with an activity – to schools, 4-H clubs, Girl and Boy Scout groups and youth groups in the northern central Iowa area. Adult groups as diverse as the Red Hat Ladies, many service groups and bus tours visit. Tours are open to everyone with no exclusions and are just a phone call away at 573-2316. The Blanden has classes for old and young including summer art camps to keep children’s minds engaged on their summer break. Art in the Schools programs have featured Andy Warhol, Grant Wood and Faith Ringgold. Saturdays at the Blanden, creativity does not break for the weekend. Sometimes whole families are brought together to create a work of art.

Art After School classes give children the chance to release and unwind, play in the squishy clay, dip their fingers in color and put it on paper. Most times, this is with a juice box and a snack. Sounds good to be a kid at the Blanden. This will make your child a better thinker, more social and a completely rounded child. As for adults, we have workshops such as Pam Sanders and her wonderful silk painted scarfs, painting and poetry with Lucas Pingel, or one can step back in time to art classes at the beautiful Smeltzer home with Sally Rassmusen.

I have been to many entertaining and thought-provoking lecture series on subjects like Maurice Prendergast, Susan Harbage Page and 21st Century Life in Italian Medieval Hill Towns.

We also have a Community Focus Program and outreach that serves physically and mentally handicapped adults led by Sharon Balm.

As for the frosting on this cake, the Blanden has a wide variety of entertaining activities. There are opening receptions like American Beasts, opportunities to have a meet and greet with great artists like Kate Javens. Imagine having a catalog signed by a well-known contemporary artist. There are musical performances on harpsichord and piano by Timothy A. Schmidt. And there is Kids Art Day in late spring with crafts, music and food. Sponsored vocal performances have included the Vienna Boys Choir. There has been a children’s book reading with KCCI Channel 8’s own Marcus McIntosh.

Premier exhibits feature masterpieces like Cassatt to Wyeth.

The Blanden’s permanent collected is unrivaled, at least in the state of Iowa – with Chagalls, Beckmanns and a Miro. And there is a Chihuly glass sculpture in the lobby. There are watercolors, statues, pop art, European art. The list goes one and on.

And what you should know about this is that most of it is free. You don’t have to put on a tuxedo. You don’t have to whisper in the gallery. Just go and visit and importantly, enjoy.

Barbara B. O’Connor, of Fort Dodge, is a docent at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.