Homecoming for the Arts

Writer: Brianne Sanchez
Photographer: Elizabeth Wallace, University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

Campus homecoming celebrations are traditionally more focused on the action around the football field than on observing fine art. But at the University of Iowa, where in 2008 historic flooding displaced the UI Museum of Art’s world-class collection, a rah-rah sense of reunion surrounds the inaugural exhibition at the newly completed University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, which opened Aug. 26.

“Homecoming,” which will run through July 2025, reunites the public with some of the most recognized of the museum’s more than 16,000 artworks. Among the returning pieces is the recently restored “Mural,” Jackson Pollock’s largest canvas painting, which measures nearly 20 feet wide by 8 feet tall. Donated by visionary collector Peggy Guggenheim, the 1943 work marked a pivotal moment for the celebrated artist.

Also on display are Max Beckmann’s “Karneval,” Alma Thomas’ “Spring Embraces Yellow,” and pieces by former faculty members, such as Grant Wood. Elements of the three-part exhibition also include African art collected by a Black Iowan, Meredith Saunders, and an installation that demonstrates how Black and Indigenous artists have shaped art and culture around the globe.

The intention toward inclusivity doesn’t end with the works on display. Admission to the museum is free, Spanish translations of wall text and audio information on select works are available, and gallery hosts are trained to accommodate visitor accessibility needs.

“We live by the ‘See Yourself at the Stanley’ tag line,” says Elizabeth Menninger Wallace, the museum’s manager of communications and marketing. “We want everyone to feel comfortable visiting or imagining themselves visiting. Think of us as a friendly public library of visual culture—minus the ‘borrowing artwork to take home’ part.”

Located on the east side of campus, across from the University’s Main Library and adjacent to Gibson Square Park, the new 63,000-square-foot, $50 million structure designed by BNIM Iowa is almost like an architectural geode, with a dark brick exterior that cracks open to reveal a dazzling interior. The contemporary structure’s masonry has a luminous quality, thanks to a manganese treatment, and a three-story central lightwell brings in natural daylight. Warm white birch wood detailing and airy rooms throughout the interior highlight the stunning works on display. 

It’s a spectacular setting for the museum to fulfill its teaching mission. Third-floor classrooms serve as laboratory space for university faculty members and students, Iowa educators and schoolchildren, and local seniors who are curious about exploring art. By creating opportunities for immersive, interdisciplinary educational experiences—previous collaborations include the College of Engineering, the Dance Department, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the College of Dentistry— the museum is designed to inspire generations to come.

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art
160 W. Burlington St., Iowa City

10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday
Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday
Closed Monday

Free admission
More information: stanleymuseum.uiowa.edu/ 

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