CIAA History & Collections

  In the Central Iowa Art Association library one can find several scrapbooks recording events from the beginning of our association through to the present. The first scrapbook helps us understand how it all began. According to Helen Lentz, as stated in a scrapbook, the CIAA started with three regular members: Allene Gordon, Edna Wise, and Helen Lentz. In 1944 these women were a part of a group known as the American Association of University Women (AAUW). They held regular meetings in the basement of the public library. These three members also made up the first art class, which had no instructor. In the fall of 1945, they decided a teacher was necessary and recruited Nellie Gebers, a pupil of Grant Wood, a well-known Iowa artist. They conducted class in the old senior high school on 11th Street. 

  In 1946 finances were limited and the class moved to the top floor of the YMCA. At this time the group called themselves “The Creative Group.” With Gebers active in the Waterloo Art Association, she thought it would be ideal for the Marshalltown group to organize and pattern their by-laws after Waterloo’s, and so they did. That October the Central Iowa Art Association came into being at a luncheon at the YMCA.

  In 1946, the CIAA moved to the top of the courthouse to conduct classes. With generous help from the A.A.U.W. the CIAA was able to get this far. It was November of 1955 that the CIAA accepted the place J.W. "Bill" Fisher offered in the Fisher Community Center. The art center was opened in January 1958, and is still operated by the Central Iowa Art Association today.
Ceramic Study Collection


  The Central Iowa Art Association began to collect area artists’ ceramics in 1970, focusing primarily on utilitarian bowls, vases, boxes, plates, cups, etc. Eventually, the Ceramic Study Collection was extended to include a diversity of contemporary and historical work form a broad variety of geographical sources including Canada, England, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Guinea, Rhodesia, Scotland, Spain, and the United States.
  This collection has become of importance as a reference for potters, sculptors, and collectors as well as for showing different art forms to the public. The collection's main purpose has been and continues to be one of education. When a piece helps an individual understand a new concept, learn about a new glaze or technique or become aware of the art of other cultures, the collection has succeeded in its purpose. The Ceramic Study Collection has become a valuable resource for visiting school, college, and art-related groups.
  After the Art Association collected privately for several years, a museum purchase grant was awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. This was the first time a grant had been awarded specifically and totally for the purchase of major art works by living American artists in the medium of clay. The art association’s ability was expanded to add extremely notable and valuable artists’ pieces, enhancing the scope and impact of the collection. The grant was both an underwriting of the idea that ceramics are a valid art form and a vote of confidence that a collection of such work is needed and desirable in the Midwest.
  An additional community incentive grant with matching funds from the Iowa Arts Council, the City of Marshalltown, and Marshall County was obtained through the efforts of the Marshalltown Area Council for the Arts, providing the Central Iowa Art Association with the ability to produce a small book describing the collection. The grant emphasized the local and statewide recognition of the value of this collection.
  The Ceramics Study Collection has become an important contrast and complement to the noted Fisher Foundation Collection of painting and sculpture at the Fisher Community Center, helping make art a more educational and enjoyable experience for all regional residents.

Upper Left: CLAYTON BAILEY, United States Brain Bowl, 1974
Sculpture Collection

  In 1958 , Ames sculptor Christian Petersen modeled a portrait of Marshalltown industrialist J. William Fisher in the Central Iowa Art Association studio at the Fisher Community Center. The Fisher Foundation had built and opened the building that spring to house the cultural,social.and civic organizations of the community.
  After their lively conversation during the sittings, they agreed that the building needed a sculpture symbolizing its activities and ideals .Tthe businessman granted the sculptor full artistic license to design an appropriate work. Three years later, Bill Fisher unveiled '' A Dedication to the Future", Christian Petersen's final, personally heroic achievement.
  Fisher's generosity was a dream come true for the noted Danish-American sculptor , who had never executed a major work in the classic and costly medium of bronze. The commission culminated a career spanning nearly sixty years,beginning when Petersen was a young medallion engraver in a Massachusetts jewelry factory and continuing for decades as a sculptor on the east coast and in the Midwest. he was artist-in -residence at Iowa State University in Ames for 21 years, from 1934 until his retirement in 1955.
  Christian Petersen had prepared himself well for '' Dedication'' by pursuing a lifelong interest in designing sculpture fountains as enhancements for architecture. His craftsmanship won him the commission,but he completed it by virtue of his courage.
  After starting work on ''Dedication'',Peterson learned he had internal cancer and little time to live. He and his wife, Charlotte, prayed for time enough to finish the job. Twice his work was interrupted by hospitalization, but he rallied from attack to return to the towering figure taking shape in his Iowa State studio. Assistants carried buckets of clay and stood by the seventy-six -year-old artist, whose legs faltered even as his shoulders,arms, and hands-strengthened by fifty years of molding and chiseling-imbued the clay with life.
  Hospitalized on Good Friday in March of 1961, the artist inspected the last foundry molds for the bronze castings and pronounced them perfect . He signed his work in a bold script. - Christian Petersen.Three days later, he died.
  Following Christian Petersen's death , the Central Iowa Art Association acquired two memorials from his studio collection. Mrs. Martha Ellen Fisher Tye donated ''War'' , a stone figure of a mother protecting her child from Hitler's blitzkrieg through Europe, and Petersen's Marshalltown sculpture students bought ''Mountain Mother'', sculpted circa 1938 after the Petersen's witnessed the ravages of Kentucky floods in 1963 . Both works are typical of Petersen's oeuvre: compassion carved from Bedford limestone . He lived and died as he worked, extracting tenderness and courage from stone clay.
  Three works by Christian Petersen and six sculptures by other noted French and American artists grace the grounds and foyers of the Fisher Community Center and Martha Ellen Tye Playhouse.

Fisher Impressionist Collection

 Owned by the Fisher Foundation

Mary Cassatt

Mother and Child

Pastel. 31  x  23 1/2"

Mary Cassatt


  The painting titled "Mother and Child" was purchased by the Fisher Foundation in 1960 and unveiled for the Central Iowa Art Association at the Sunday afternoon tea.
  Mary Cassatt was born in Pittsburgh in 1845. As a child she visited Paris for 5 years with her parents . The family returned to live in Philadelphia and Mary enjoyed wealth and social prestige.
  Mary wanted to be an artist With members of her family she left for Europe where there was more opportunity in her brilliant original ideology of expression.
  After traveling in Europw , she allied herself with Impressionism, the most misunderstood movement of the day. the work of Degas especially attracted her and she studied his work. Contemporary subjects interrested her.
  Strenth and truth were objectives , not sweetness and romance. Japanese art influenced her. her maother and child theme endured for her lifetime.

Edgar Degas

Dancers on Stage

Pastel. 28 1/2 x 29 3/4 

Edward Degas


  Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas was born in Paris , July 19, 1834 and died September 26, 1917. He was the son of a wealthy banker. his idol was the painter Jean Auguste Ingres who set him in the direction of draftsmanship that stressed balance and clarity of outline.
  Degas studied with Louis Lamothes, a pupil of Ingres before he went to Italy where he studied Italian art. After returning to Paris he painted family portraits and historical subjects. He came to know Edouard Manet and they both turned to contemporary themes.
  In the early 1870's Degas chose female ballet dancers as his favorite theme, sketching from live models. After 1880 pastel became Degas's preferred medium. He used sharper colors and gave greater attention to surface patterning.
  As he grew older, Degas would permit nobodt to enter his studio. He often forgot to eat. Zoe, his faithful housekeeper, would have to beg him for five francs a day , so she could feed herself and cook his meals.
  When his eyesight failed , he turned to sculpture, but he would allow nobody to see or touch his work. He left figures on a shelf until they rotted to bits. Hundred of his sculptures were lost to the world. When Degas died, the executors of his estate found over 3,000 paintings and drawings!

Albert Lebourg 


Albert LeBourg was born in Normandy. When he was 20 he went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, then he went to Paris for more study. 
When LeBourg became a art teacher, he traveled to Algiers. He returned to France and continued to paint in Auvergne, Normandy, and all along the river Siene. 

Camile Pissarro

Niege Et Givry A Eragay

Oil on Canvas 23 1/2 x28 3/4" 

Camille Pissarro


Pissaro was one of the founders of Impressionism. In 1855 he went to Paris to study and he was first attracted to the art of the Barbizon school and to the poetic realism of Camille Corot. Later, Pissarro discarded Corot's dark colors in favor of a more atmospheric treatment of landscape. With Manet and other avant-garde painters ,Pissarro exhibited at the Saoln des Refuses. His link with Monet and Renoir grew close in the 1860's. 

  The work of English painters Turner and Constable influencred Pissarro to lighten his Palette. He formulated a technique of applying strokes of bright color to the canvas to create luminous effects. The public shunned these experiments and as a result of that, Pissarro helped organize the first independent impressionist show of 1874.
  Pizzarro had great influence on the impressionists and there followers, including the neoimpressionist Georges Seurat, whose pointillist technique the older painter emulated after 1886.
  In his later years, Pissarro returned to an impressionistic rendering of rural life,harbbor views,and urban scenes.

Henri Matisse 


  Henri Matisse ranks among the greatest painters of the 20 th Century. He worked as a law clerk until 1891 when he began to study under Bouguereau at the Academie Julian.
  During the late 1890's he became familir with the postimpressionist, especially that of Paul Cezanne, which exerted a strong influence on his style. During those years Matisse, Camoin, Rouault, and Marquet joined Vlaminck, Derain and Braque to form the Fauve group.
  Les Fauves (OR Wild Beasts) was a derogatory label applied to these artists when they exhibited together in Paris in 1905. Their imagery defied all traditional canons of competent painting and shocked the general public.
  Matisse carried the expressive freedom of his Fauve manner into sculpture before returning to Painting. Tthroughout his career Matisse used his serene and joyous imagery in mediums outside the fine art-book illustration, tapestry, rug, design, and architectural decoration.
  Matisse's supreme accomplishment was to liberate color from its traditionally realistic function and to make it the foundation of a decorative art of the highest order.
  "Nature Morte" was added to the Fisher Foundation collection in 1966.

Adolphe Monticelli


  A French painter of Italian parentage,Monticelli was born in Marseilles and received his early training in the Art School there.
  He settled in Paris during the 1840's where as a friend of Diaz,. His entrance into society of artists and art-lovers became easy. Toward the close of the reign of Napoleon III, ,Monticelli was on the high road to fame; his work was in demand both in England and America and provoked praise from the art critics and artists of that day.
  Van Gogh wrote of him, " He is, so far as i know, the only painter who perceives chromatic values with that intensity,that gem-like,metallic quality."
  His paintings have hung in the Louvre and the Tate Gallery in London. An exhibition of his work in the Musee de l"Orangerie in Paris in 1953 proved that his paintings could, without disadvantage, be placed beside Cezann's.
  Monticallis's painting was hung in the Fisher center collection in 1961.

Pierre Bonnard



  Pierre Bonnard is of the French Intimist School. He is famous for landscapes and still life. His importance as an artist lies chiefly in his ability to use tradition of the symbolist, while keeping the viewer's eye on the simplicity and beauty of nature.
  The Bernheim-Jeune Gallelry bought " les Elegantes " by Bonnard from the artist on November 22,1908. On January 21,1909, it was sold to Alexander Natanson,before entereing the Jos Hessel collection. In 1964 "les Elegantes" entered the Fisher Foundation collection in Marshalltown, having been guaranteed as authentic by Paul Petrides.