The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

December 22, 2012

Expanding education of Gothic House, Grant Wood

American Gothic House Center to expand programs, education

ELDON — Holly Berg hopes the American Gothic House Center will continue to grow and expand its programs and educational opportunities in the new year.

Berg, the center’s administrator, said the center continues to fundraise to accomplish new ideas buzzing around the center.

One new initiative Berg wants to start, and she said she needs educators in the area to help it launch, is “teaching trunks.”

“We love to have kids come on field trips here but sometimes they can’t get here due to funding,” Berg said.

Berg also goes to schools for presentations on the American Gothic House, but she said trunks of information and supplies that teachers could check out from the center could be taken into classrooms.

“They could be done on their own or as something they could do before they come on the field trip or after to reinforce what they learned,” Berg said. “A lot of people think it’s just art here, but it’s history, it’s agriculture. It’s so many things. I want to develop a curriculum based around American Gothic and Grant Wood.”

While people may not immediately see the connection, Berg said, she’s been reviewing Iowa Core (new standards and expectations for K-12 students) and found that math could even be incorporated.

“In kindergarten, they learn shapes,” Berg said. “Well, Wood used repeating shapes and patterns. Things you wouldn’t even think to do, I want to develop a curriculum and make teachers’ lives easier.

“We want to be an asset to the area and I think that’s one of the things we can work toward.”

Berg said she also plans to work with area Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops to figure out what they can do at the center to earn badges.

“It drives support for us, and it’s our way to support the community as well,” she said.

Berg, who started working at the center in May 2010, spent her first year looking at what the center had, sustaining it and researching what the community’s needs, wants and interests were.

“So I talked to teachers, I went into the schools,” she said. “This last year, I tried to change up the lecture series. We had to do different things, bring in different people and different topics.”

She also collaborated with other area organizations, such as the Ottumwa Area Arts Council and Pioneer Ridge Nature Center.

A new “passport program” will appear this January, started by Bravo Wapello County, a new collaboration of area organizations to attract visitors to the county that started this year.

“Different organizations, attractions and events will be on the passport,” Berg said. “If people get a certain amount of stamps on it, they get a prize.”

Bus tours to the center increased this year, including tours from Alabama, Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as many from across Iowa.

“It might not be directly evident to the community, but these people eat somewhere, they get gas somewhere,” Berg said. “Mark [Eckman, director of the Ottumwa Area Convention and Visitors Bureau] facilitated getting the bus tours to stop for lunch at the Hotel Ottumwa. It’s different ways to partner with other organizations and businesses.”

The center has also set a new record for the number of visitors in a year. So far, they’ve hit 15,200, higher than last year’s total count of 14,000.

The center is also starting an endowment fund through the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, which will launch at the beginning of the year. The goal is to fully fund the center someday to make it self-sufficient.

As an initial part of the fund, the center is raffling off a print of the American Gothic House by local artist Chris Abigt.

“The wood and glass in the frame are from pieces of the house that had to be removed this summer,” Berg said. “It’s a new fundraiser we’ve never done before.”

Tickets are $1 each or six for $5 with the drawing held on Feb. 9 during the Grant Wood Birthday Soup Smorgasbord at KD Center in Eldon.

“This summer during restoration work, we tried to keep as much as we could of the original, but anything that was unsafe or too broken to keep on the house we took,” Berg said.

While the center’s next event isn’t until February, people can still visit the center during the week and head to the website to check out the raffle item and next year’s calendar of events, Berg said.

Go online to

Text Only
Wapello County
  • 0417 OTT Beth Howard color cover -L -T -M 'Ms. American Pie' tours with her new book

    ELDON — With many hours and countless miles on her RV "The Beast," Eldon's pie lady, Beth Howard, is celebrating the release of her new book with a tour of southwestern states. Howard's second book, "Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bol

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • County signs law enforcement agreement with Eddyville OTTUMWA — A law enforcement service contract between Wapello County and the city of Eddyville received supervisors' approval on Tuesday. Beginning July 1, Eddyville will pay the Wapello County Sheriff’s office $3,833 per month or $45,996 for law enfo

    April 15, 2014

  • County considers hiring conservation aide OTTUMWA — On Tuesday morning, Wapello County Board of Supervisors will consider hiring a part-time conservation aide at its weekly board meeting. The meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the board’s meeting room located on the third floor of the c

    April 11, 2014

  • 0412 OTT Brush fire color photo 2 -T Brush fire breaks out on east side of city OTTUMWA — Late Friday morning, a fire broke out in a vacant area of trees and brush next to the Ottumwa Water Pollution Control Facility. Both the Wapello County Rural Fire Department and Ottumwa Fire Department were called to the scene of the fire,

    April 11, 2014 3 Photos

  • Wapello County Courthouse.jpg Courthouse to receive facelift

    OTTUMWA — First, Chief Wapello received a facelift. Now, it’s the county courthouse’s turn. On Tuesday evening, Wapello County Board of Supervisors approved spending $139,000 for repair and maintenance of the historic courthouse. Karr Tuckpointing o

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Another health care option OTTUMWA — If you didn't get your "mandatory" health insurance by the deadline earlier this week, you may have another option. Or two. "I'd certainly keep trying," said Greg Kenning, a Wapello County supervisor. He said it's his understanding that the

    April 2, 2014

  • Trial set in child pornography case OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa man accused in a child pornography case will go on trial this summer. Rass Kerby Jr., is charged with enticing a minor to engage in a sex act or simulated sex act and possession of media of a minor engaged in a sex act. He was a

    April 2, 2014

  • Wanted: People who love history OTTUMWA — If you have a love for history, Wapello County has an interest in you. Wapello County Board of Supervisors is considering withdrawing from the State Historical Society’s Certified Local Government program unless interested people are willin

    April 1, 2014

  • 0530 OTT flood damaged bridge -L Bridge repair tops county's 5-year plan

    OTTUMWA — Road construction in Wapello County will be taking on a different look in the next three years. On Tuesday, County Engineer Brian Moore told the Wapello County Board of Supervisors bridge replacement will be a high priority. “We’ll have a h

    April 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0321 OTT animal rescue league update color photo -L -M Animal van trial set

    OTTUMWA — Trial has been scheduled in the case that preceded the rescue of hundreds of animals in Drakesville. Roger Blew, 45, of Drakesville, has pleaded not guilty to the four criminal charges he faced in Ottumwa. Police charged Blew with one count

    March 20, 2014 1 Photo

AP National