Grant Wood Rest Area on I-380

I love art,  I love history, and I love Iowa.  And Grant Wood is all of that.

But are you serious?  Is Iowa Road Trip recommending that we visit a rest area along an interstate?  

Well, sort of.   I don’t think it’s a destination where you would plan a long trip with this as your final destination.  But if you are traveling north on I-380 between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids and you need a quick break –  then, yes, I am recommending this as a worthy stop.  Here’s the exact location on Google Maps.

It’s designed by David Dahlquist from RDG Dahlquist Studio.   Even if you don’t recognize his name, you have probably seen and would recognize his work (like the artwork that lights up at night on the High Trestle Trail Bridge?  Yup, that’s his work)  

The entire design is based on the life and work of Grant Wood, certainly the most famous artist from Iowa and perhaps one of the most famous American artists.  Wood was born in Anamosa and spent many years in Cedar Rapids.  In fact, most of his famous paintings were done in his loft, which is now open to the public and is known as the Grant Wood Art Studio located in nearby Cedar Rapids. 

The entrance to the rest area pays tribute to the gothic style window that is the backdrop of his most revered painting titled “American Gothic”. The gothic windows that decorate the front entrance are lit with led lights and change colors at night.

Inside the rest area, the men’s and women’s rooms are clearly labeled with the male (Grant’s dentist) who is holding the pitchfork and his sister Nan, whose stern and serious look stands guard outside the women’s restroom.


The terrazzo floors are also decorated in the rolling hills and fields style that you would see in his paintings.  

Grant Wood helped found an art colony in Stone City (near Anamosa) and students paid to take art lessons during the summer.  Many of the male students lived in ice wagons that the instructors purchased.  The picnic tables at the rest area are framed with a structure that mimics ice wagons used in the Stone City art colony.   

On the east entrance of the rest area is a memorial to the state of Iowa quarter that featured Grant Wood and his famous painting “Arbor Day” with the classic one room school house. 

Ceramic tiles replicate the Grant Wood style outside the building.
There are several plaques and boards that help tell the Grant Wood story and how each of the elements fit into the theme.

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