Grant Wood Country Annual Forum


Being an Iowan who grew up and lived as an adult in "Grant Wood Country," with several generations settled there before me and now a couple behind, I am constantly discovering new things about the ongoing influence of Grant Wood and his art. As I prepared to present my first collection of poems, Grant Wood Country Loose Leaf Poems, I revisited some of the scholarship of Grant Wood and his art. Though his name and work were ever-present throughout my youth, I have discovered that many continue to discover him anew, study him and his art, and create new work derived of his influence. Those of us who are daughters and sons of "Grant Wood Country," can speak with particular authenticity to many cultural aspects of the area. It has been intriguing, exciting and, at times, befuddling, to learn more about the scholarship, books, and articles written about our area, its celebrity artist, and the impact of his famous paintings. I would like to give shout-outs to these Grant Wood area writers who have studied and presented work, nonfiction and creative, published books and work with me on presenting their fabulous insights via the Grant Wood Country Forum, an annual 10-week online series: 

• Paul Juhl,  historian and author of Grant Wood: Abandoned Plans and Grant Wood's Clear Lake Summer, and many more.

• Dorothy Bunting Montgomery, author of Stone Fruit, new historical fiction book set in Grant Wood Country and meticulously attentive to authentic depictions of people related to Grant Wood, especially Nan Wood Graham. Available on Amazon. She is working to complete her second historian fiction novel centered around people and places of Grant Wood Country.

• Barbara Feller, author of upcoming book, The Creation of An Artist: Grant Wood's Boyhood Story, coming out this fall from Ice Cube Press. She also wrote The Road to Waubeek: Discovering Jay G. Sigmund (poet, and close friend and inspiration to Grant Wood), also from Ice Cube Press. Currently working on a book related to Grant Wood's epic stained glass window at the Veteran's Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids.

Wood's work has been studied through many lenses. It is an area of ongoing fascination for me to balance these varying lenses with my own experiences of growing up as a 6th generation daughter of the beautiful area known now colloquially as "Grant Wood Country," but also the land, previously, of the Sauk, Meskwaki, and Ho-Chunk Native Nations


My poetry folio, Grant Wood Country Loose Leaf Poems, continues to be available via this site. More info below on this page and Home page.

Grant Wood Country Forum—

Facebook Page: Grant Wood Country Forum

Email Address Dedicated to This Forum:

Contact: Elaine Mattingly, forum Director/Editor, or

Sessions Held Online via Zoom on Tuesdays, January 9 - February 27, 2024, 6:30-8:00 p.m. - 2022 Grant Wood Country Forum kicks off its 8 -week online series, in partnership with Cedar Rapids Public Library (Zoom host). This forum is for anyone interested in art, history, culture, and creative writing related to the life and legacy of the iconic artist Grant Wood, as well as the life and times of Iowa before and after his life—and for observers and writers (emerging and experienced). Reading times for participants to share their creative writing inspirations (short fiction, poetry, short essay) are built into the Forum. Enjoy presentations by a range of dynamic presenters. A culminating publication, Grant Wood Country Chronicle (digital and print editions), is offered in conjunction with a celebration event open to the public (held on the Living Learning Rooftop of the Cedar Rapids Public Library). This series is for free and open to the public. Cedar Rapids Public Library hosts this online series.

See for registration info. Reminder emails will be sent for each week of the series.


• January, 12, 2022, 7:00 p.m. Grant Wood Country Writers Forum presents to the Iowa Poetry Association

The 2020/2021 forum ended just prior to Grant Wood's 130th birthday, and culminated in a final project which included essays, short fiction, poetry and information about the ongoing interest, Grant Wood Country Chronicle: An Adventure into the History and Legacy of This Iconic Area. See the Home page to purchase the Chronicle in print or digital editions. 

This Forum provided fun and interactive opportunities to learn, share, write and connect throughout the winter months. Recent Grant Wood Through Local Eyes presenters Paul C. Juhl and Barbara Feller provided expertise in the area of Grant Wood's life and legacy (and also regarding Wood's friend and influence Jay Sigmund). Facilitator and editor Elaine Mattingly provided historical context for the featured artworks as well as strategies and insights for writers or enthusiasts. Historical novelist Dorothy Bunting Montgomery shared wonderful insights about the people and places related to Grant Wood.


I am thrilled to announce my recording project, Limestone Elixir: Words & Music to the Beat of Grant Wood Country 

is near completion and should be in 2023.

Grant Wood Country Loose Leaf Poems—And Other Visions—

Dear Reader, 

These, my precious poems, began in the arms of a black walnut tree in Viola, Iowa, a place embedded in a celebrated area known as Grant Wood Country. Some poems have lain fallow for decades; some sprang to life recently. I hope you will enjoy their varied styles, tones and formats. Like people, they tend to go where they will. 

This collection is inspired by several generations of my ancestors—Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch (German), Swedish, Czech/Bohemian, Austrian, Quakers, Methodists, Anabaptists, to name a few. They hail from places like Waubeek, Paralta, Cedar Rapids, Marion, Springville, Viola, and Anamosa. The first-person retellings by relatives—of life before, during, and after the Great Depression (the timeframe of Grant Wood’s life)—linger still, never far from my consciousness, nor imagination. 

This collection is also born of experiences and observations gathered while living in Grant Wood Country from birth well into my adulthood. These poems are influenced by the excellent education I received in the heart of this particular landscape, first at Viola Elementary, then from Anamosa Junior and Senior High Schools (as well as Cornell College, University of Iowa and Iowa State University in subsequent years). Inevitably, this collection is shaped by joys and grapplings—personal, cultural and systemic—many of which continue still. 

Most of all, dear Reader, I want you to know that I feel, in my Grant Wood Country bones, that it can enrich us to revisit the iconic body of work of Iowa’s famous artist-son. And, certainly, with the late Grant Wood Country poet Jay G. Sigmund as model of the voice of the land and people of this area, I wish to continue this legacy—incorporating new sensibilities, experiences and understandings. My poems have sprung organically since girlhood, from the very areas that Mr. Sigmund created his poetry and Grant Wood crafted his immortal paintings. With Wood’s and Sigmund's creations as touchstones, I cannot wait to continue to write—and reveal to you—new poems, songs, stories and sketches. Join me as I take a modern-day journey deep into the land, lore, and current beauty (and challenges) of Grant Wood Country. May we never stop striving to understand each other, nor to reflect upon our shared histories as members of the ever-evolving American family.  —Elaine


Exhilarating it is to witness today's ever-fluid creative possibilities. Today's possibilities blur the boundaries among written, oral, performance and cyber traditions. Contradictions flourish everywhere in the push and pull of the provincial and global, rural and urban, faithful and skeptical, collective and individual, and the Utopian and dystopian.   

From my home observatory in Washer City (Newton), Iowa, the undeniable challenges of globalization continue to loom. This community, a former one-company town (Maytag Corporation), has no choice but to respond. Writers need conflict, and life in Washer City, and the Midwest, provides enough tensions and complexity to keep this native Iowan writing since her teens. The hardwood arms of black walnut trees in the lap of eastern Iowa’s Grant Wood country nurtured my youthful imagination. Muses continue to luxuriate in our welcoming landscape. It is a privilege to call myself Iowan.  —Elaine