The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Edward Beatty Rowan


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Edward Beatty Rowan (1898-1946) - faculty

A nationally known leader of the arts, Edward Rowan was born in Chicago, Illinois and received his undergraduate education at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (1922) and a Masters in Art from Harvard University (1928). In a pilot program, he established the Community Art Center of Cedar Rapids with a $75,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (1928). The foundation’s hopes that a small, midwestern community would begin a thriving art culture found a perfect match in Rowan’s personality and motivation.

With the help of his wife, Leata, Rowan successfully developed and operated the Little Gallery in Cedar Rapids (on Third Street SE), offering exhibitions and art education programs for children. He was an active promoter, searching Iowa for promising artists. From 1928-1934, Rowan directed the Little Gallery; Arnold Pyle served as his assistant for several years and was well known for his professional framing skills. Edward and Leata purchased a summer home in the town of Eldon, Iowa in 1930; during a visit, Grant Wood stumbled upon the Eldon house that would inspire his classic painting “American Gothic.”

Grant and Edward’s friendship resulted in the beginnings of the Stone City Art Colony. Through his professional connections, Rowan was able to bring together many of Iowa’s and the Midwest’s leading artists for communal teaching and living. In his duties at the colony, he provided afternoon lectures on art appreciation and culture and served as an advisor and colony promoter. Rowan lived in one of the colony’s famed ice wagons – a white wagon with window boxes and flowers. After the amazing success of the 1932-33 colony, Rowan accepted the position of Assistant Technical Director of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) through the U.S. Treasury Department and remained in that capacity until October 1934. He was promoted to Assistant Chief, Fine Arts Section, Federal Works Agency, Public Buildings Administration, that same month and remained in that position through the 1940s.

In his new position, Rowan supervised artists producing federal-sponsored murals across America – directing selection juries, providing design criticism, and offering technical information. Rowan’s projects totaled over 1,000 mural commissions and over 160 mural juries. Even while holding this federal appointment, Rowan kept active ties with Midwestern artists, acting as an advocate for their work. He served as a consultant/advisor for art projects in many federal buildings and organized WPA-artist exhibitions for major museums, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Whitney Museum. He would eventually become the Chief of the Fine Arts Section upon the death of his supervisor, Edward Bruce.

An active lecturer, Rowan traveled extensively in the United States and Canada, describing the evolving American Art scene. He would frequently return to Cedar Rapids to visit with friends in the art community. In November 1940, he assumed the chair of the National Art Week committee, a movement that lasted for a few years until federal funding ended for the arts due to wartime expenses. A veteran of World War I, Rowan worked ceaselessly for veteran causes and died in 1946 while serving as an instructor at an American military college in Biarritz, France. His long career enabled him to serve some 8000 artists as both a mentor and friend. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Online Resources for Edward Beatty Rowan:

Lorance, Nancy. “Who’s Who in the New Deal Art Projects.” Available:

National Archives and Record Administration. “A New Deal for the Arts: Rediscovering America, Part I.” Available:

Edward Rowan. From the faculty group photo (1933) found on the Resources Page. Photo courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

Edward Rowan and his Ice Wagon, ca 1932. Photographer: John W. Barry. Used with the permission of the Grant Wood Gallery, Anamosa. IA.

Edward Rowan and his Ice Wagon, ca 1932. Photographer: John W. Barry, Jr. Photo courtesy of the Grant Wood Art Gallery, Anamosa. IA.

Edward Rowan also appears in 1932 all male faculty photo found on the Resources page.



When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
Busse Library,
Mount Mercy University
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Telephone: 319-368-6465
Fax: 319-363-9060

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