The Sioux City Art Center’s Permanent Collection includes more than 1,000 artworks in a wide variety of mediums and styles. While many artists represented in the collection are nationally and internationally recognized, the heart of the Permanent Collection is artists from the Upper Midwest, many of whom have ties to Sioux City.
Though the vast majority of artworks in the Permanent Collection are in storage, the Art Center always has a significant number of these artworks on exhibit. Visitors to the Art Center can visit the Margaret Ann Martin Everist Permanent Collection Gallery, which features an exhibition of artworks from the Permanent Collection that remains on display for approximately five years. Each of these exhibitions is supported by publications as part of an Educational Initiative that is sponsored by the M. A. Martin Everist Foundation. Additional artworks from the Permanent Collection can be found on display in spaces throughout the Art Center. The Art Center also regularly presents special thematic exhibitions of artworks from the Permanent Collection in its third floor galleries.
Among the largest artworks in the Permanent Collection is the Corn Room mural created in 1927 by Grant Wood. The mural was commissioned by Eugene Eppley and was painted on the walls of the Martin Hotel in downtown Sioux City. However, after the hotel was sold, the new owner covered in the mural in wallpaper and was all but forgotten. After the mural was “rediscovered” in 1979, it was salvaged and conserved. Local attorney Alan Fredregill purchased it and donated the mural to the Art Center, where it became part of the Permanent Collection in 2007. At that time, the Corn Room mural was placed on permanent display in its own gallery on the third floor.
The Sioux City Art Center’s Permanent Collection, like the Art Center itself, has roots that stretch beyond the opening of the WPA Art Center in 1938. The Sioux City Society of Fine Arts dedicated itself after its incorporation in 1914 to the creation of a collection of art. When the Society’s efforts to open the Art Center succeeded, its members agreed to turn over its collection to the Art Center. Many of the artworks in this original gift remain in the Art Center’s Permanent Collection. These represent the wide range of interests among art collectors during the early 20th century in Sioux City: an 18th-century Italian engraving; a late Gothic sculpture from Europe; turn-of-the-century paintings and sculptures by European and American artists; and artworks by Sioux City artists.
Since this original donation, the Sioux City Art Center has consistently collected artworks that define the cultural legacies of Sioux City, Iowa, and the Upper Midwest. Though occasional large donations, primarily consisting of prints, have brought artworks by artists without a connection to the Upper Midwest into the Permanent Collection, the vast majority of artists represented in the Permanent Collection have a regional connection. In addition, the Art Center has focused its collecting on works from the 20th and 21st centuries, honoring the efforts of artists who are, at the moment of their working, “contemporary” artists.
The most recent effort at collecting works by leading contemporary artists of the Upper Midwest is the creation of the “Legacy Collection.” Initiated in 2007 through funding from the Blockbuster Partners, the Margaret Heffernan Permanent Collection Fund, the M. A. Martin Everist Foundation, and the Gilchrist Foundation, the Legacy Collection project brings major works by Upper Midwest artists to the Art Center, where public input is gathered before final purchases are made. To date, there are twenty artworks in the Legacy Collection.