The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Gerald I. Griffith

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Gerald I. Griffith [“Gerry”] (1909-1999) - student

A native of Waterloo, Iowa, Gerald Griffith graduated from East High School (1926) and attended Cumming School of Art in Des Moines (1926-27). He then enrolled at Iowa State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in architecture (1931). While a college student, he was the staff artist for his fraternity’s campus magazine “Green Gander” and was influenced by the art-deco design movement. The summer of 1932 found him at the Stone City Art Colony where he specialized in painting. Recognized as one of the most promising students at the colony, Griffith continued to train with Wood, spending summers in Cedar Rapids. He received additional training at the Des Moines Art Center’s Students Workshop under Lowell Houser, another colony member. Griffith also completed his Master’s degree in architectural engineering at Iowa State University in 1933.

Griffith exhibited frequently in Iowa, including the Iowa Art Salon (1929-1933); the Great Hall, Iowa State University; and the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs (Marshalltown, 1931). One 1933 Iowa State Fair award was for his black and white painting entitled “Adrian’s Tomb,” depicting Dornbush’s colony accommodations. Known as a master draftsman, Griffith won a national competition for Paris-based studies at the Ecole Beaux Arts. Despite his natural talent, family pressure for a traditional occupation and steady income eventually led Griffith back to the life of an architect.

In the late 1930s, Griffith joined the Proudfoot, Rawson, Brooks, and Borg architectural firm in Des Moines. The firm held such title from 1933-1945 and was responsible for many civic and public buildings in the area, including the Polk County Courthouse and several Iowa State University buildings. Griffith’s achievements with the firm are numerous: St. Theresa Catholic Church in Des Moines; Douglas Avenue Presbyterian Church (Des Moines); Child Development Lab, Iowa State University; St. Malachy’s School (Creston, IA); Saint Mark’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral (Hastings, NE); Journalism Building, Iowa State University; and the Iowa Medical Society Headquarters, Des Moines.

Griffith continued to practice architecture in Des Moines as a partner with the firm of Kendall Griffith Russell Artiaga. He was a past president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Iowa Division, past president of the Iowa State University Architecture Registration Board, past chairman of the Midwest region of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), past chairman for the Architectural Advisory Committee for the Des Moines Urban Renewal Board, and was an active member of the Iowa State University Campanile restoration committee. Griffith lived in Des Moines until his death in 1999.

Gerald Griffith, 1935. Photo provided and used with permission of Jennifer Griffith Clements.

Gerald Griffith, 1935.

Gerald Griffith, 1939. Photo provided and used with permission of Jennifer Griffith Clements.

Gerald Griffith, 1939.

Gerald Griffith, ca. 1996-1997.

Photos courtesy of and used with the permission of Jennifer Griffith Clements.


When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
Busse Library,
Mount Mercy University
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