Grin City Arts Collective | Artists Mingle with the Local Community in Grinnell’s Popular Residency Program

A sign on Highway 146 welcomes visitors to Grin City Arts Collective, which is expanding to include more artists than ever this year.

North of Grinnell, on a family-owned farm of four generations, lies Grin City Collective, an artist residency and collective with rising recognition in the national art world. Grin City is Iowa’s only major artist residency, and beginning this spring, the program is expanding to accommodate twice the number of artists it had in 2012.

Artists from all disciplines and at all stages of their careers reside at Grin City for two to six weeks and receive housing and a studio for their individual work. Grin City will welcome over 40 artists in 2013, and up to nine artists will be able to stay on-site along with co-directors Joe Lacina and Molly Rideout.

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Co-directors Joe Lacina and Molly Rideout..

Established in 2006 by artist Joe Lacina, the previously named “Grinnell Artist Residency” focused on providing opportunities to young artists with a one-month summer residency, culminating in a group exhibition. In 2011 the renamed Grin City Collective expanded into a six-month program. Now the residency is expanding once more to meet the needs of an increasing number of applicants.

Co-directors Rideout and Lacina understand why their model has taken off. “Artists are drawn to our focus on community outreach,” says Rideout. “They want to add an element of social practice to their art. Our work with agriculture and sustainability is equally important. People want to grow their own food and they want to share that food with others.”

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In a community outreach project last August, Grin City artists-in-residence handmadeover 100 bagels and gave them away to anyone willing to add to their mural painting.

Grin City is unique in its connection to agriculture, community, and Iowa. It brings national artists to the state and immerses them in the heartland culture. Artists learn about Iowa, agriculture, and collaboration. Artist outreach benefits the community and raises the quality of life in Grinnell. Grin City’s outreach can take many forms, from workshops to performances to mural painting. Projects are not always directly related to art, although all have creative elements to them. All activities are free or low cost and many take place outside. Scheduled activities for spring 2013 include a one-night pop-up gallery at Prairie Canary Restaurant, two weeks of children’s art classes, and set building for this summer’s community theater musical Peter Pan. Additional projects have yet to be scheduled.

Using the online crowd-funding site Kickstarter, Grin City raised over $10,000 to cover costs of renovating the brick barn and corn crib into six additional studios, with another $2,000 funded by a Grinnell College mini-grant.

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Artists-in-Residence Michael Dougherty (left) and Erik Jarvis work on the platform for a Nano Hut, a portable studio that Grin City is trying out.

In addition to more studios, Grin City is expanding into a second 100-year-old farmhouse for resident living quarters. The Collective also welcomes several new community collaborators, including Jordan Scheibel, who began the half-acre Middle Way Farm at Grin City last fall.

“Jordan’s presence enriches Grin City on many levels,” explains Rideout. “His garden is an educational tool for the visiting artists in residence to learn about farm-to-table living. He also provides the artists with fresh produce for their meals and promotes healthy living.” In 2012, Middle Way Farm and Grin City donated additional vegetables to Grinnell’s free weekly Community Meal.

Other collaborators include longtime Grinnell resident Byron Worley, who has transformed one of the residency’s smallest outbuildings into a masonry and metal shop. Under Worley’s guidance, artists in residence can learn forging and welding and will have the opportunity to use a metal-melting furnace that runs entirely on used vegetable oil recycled from restaurants. Worley hopes to eventually run his forge on used vegetable oil as well.

The most recent addition to Grin City is Dr. David Coster’s pigeon aviaries, Coz Lofts. Fancy show pigeon breeds such as Seraphim, Blondinettes, and American Show Racers are an unusual addition to an artist residency program, but they’re a perfect fit for Grin City. “Watching birds tumble through the air is just another attraction to artists looking for a unique experience,” explains Rideout, “And their droppings are an amazing fertilizer for the garden.”

Artists attending in spring 2013 include Alex Braidwood (Des Moines, IA), Noah Bruer (Brooklyn, NY), Gideon Chase (San Francisco, CA), Peggy Cyphers (Brooklyn, NY), Lauren Flynn (Gambrills, MD), Anna Ford (Eastland, TX), Evan Hockett (Grinnell, IA), Ezra Masch (Philadelphia, PA), Elizabeth McClellan (Austin, TX), Abigail McNamara (Portland, OR), Amelie Scalercio (Victoria, Australia), Carolyn Scherf (Iowa City, IA), Anne Shaw (Chicago, IL), and Kenji Yoshino (Grinnell, IA).

To visit Grin City and see the bustling life firsthand, attend one of the residency’s weekly potlucks that take place May through October. For more information visit Grin City Collective. Practicing artists are also invited to apply for a residency at the website.                        

For more information, contact Molly Rideout at,or (641) 236-3203. Grin City Collective is a program of the Grinnell Area Arts Council.