The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Adrian Dornbush
 

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Adrian Dornbush (1900-1970) - faculty

Born in Holland, Dornbush pursued his education at the University of Wisconsin (BA, 1918), the University College of Liberal Arts, Wisconsin (1922, 1924), the University of Kansas (1928-29), and two years of overseas studies.  Following his first solo exhibition at the Des Moines Public Library in 1925, he became an art teacher in the Dubuque, Iowa public school district from 1926-28.  After being elected president of the Dubuque Art Association, he organized the Flint Institute of Art in Flint, Michigan.  Later, after resigning himself to the full-time life of a painter, Dornbush lectured at the Little Gallery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he became friends with Edward Rowan, organizer of the Stone City Art Colony. 

Dornbush was named director and a charter faculty member of the Anamosa art colony in 1932-33.  Following the colony’s closing, he relocated to Des Moines and taught at the Art Students Workshop while handling a number of portrait commissions, most in watercolor.  He exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair, the Iowa Art Salon, and won numerous prizes from the Iowa Artist Club and the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs.   

Through his connection to Edward Rowan, Dornbush became involved in the new Key West, Florida FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) art experiment and moved to the area for eight months in 1934.  He became the director/coordinator of the project and focused his efforts on developing regional tourism and national recognition of local artists.  The Key West program was deemed a tremendous success and is seen as the precursor to the national WPA art program that began in 1935.  Dornbush was then appointed to run the “Special Skills” branch of the WPA's Resettlement Division that same year, a program designed to employ artists in folk crafts, furniture design, and other native arts. 

As a Washington-based coordinator, Dornbush supervised all federal artwork programs in the Tennessee Valley area. He worked directly under Rowan, who had been recently appointed as associate director of the WPA, a division of the U.S. Treasury department.  He remained with the division from 1939-1942 until World War II caused the federal government to abandon arts funding to focus on the war effort. 

Dornbush instituted National Art Week in 1940-42 and left Washington to become assistant director of the Resettlement Division, USDA Special Service Section, composed of artists and designers. He eventually moved to Puerto Rico, where he died in 1970. 


Online Resources for Adrian Dornbush: 

Florida Keys Council for the Arts. “Biographies of the WPA Artists.” Available: http://www.keysarts.org/WPA-Biographies.htm

Harrison Elementary School, Cedar Rapids, IA.  “Text of a Letter by William E. Henning Concerning the Transportation Mural he Painted at Harrison School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.”  From The Iowa Journal of History and Politics 37.3 (1939): 290-291.  Available: http://www.cr.k12.ia.us/harr/henning.html


Published Works

Ellis, Mina Walleser, Elizabeth Birkin, and Adrian Dornbush. Catalog of the Arthur Mooney Art Library. Charles City, IA: Charles City Public Library, 1939.


Untitled. Image provided from Tom Roshek, Dallas, Texas.

Untitled. Image provided from Tom Roshek, Dallas, Texas.

Adrian Dornbush (b. Holland, American 1900-1970), January Twilight, September 1926, oil on canvas,18x24 inches, Collection of Dubuque Museum of Art, Gift of Dorothy McDonald, 87.02.03.

Adrian Dornbush. From the 1932 Stone City Art Colony male faculty photograph. Photographer John W. Barry. Photo courtesy of the Grant Wood Art Gallery, Anamosa, IA.

Adrian Dornbush. From the 1932 Stone City Art Colony male faculty photograph.

Photographer John W. Barry, Jr. Photo courtesy of the Grant Wood Art Gallery, Anamosa, IA.

Adrian Dornbush. From the 1932 easel painting class photo found on the Project Description page.

Adrian Dornbush. From the 1932 easel painting class photo found on the Project Description page.

 

When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
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