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[graphic header] The Amana Colonies: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary of a unique historic communal society in eastern Iowa

[graphic] Amana Arts Guild Center
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[photo]
Amana Arts Guild Center
Photograph by Shannon Bell

Once the High Amana church, this building now serves as the Amana Arts Guild featuring arts and crafts from all seven Amana Colonies. Except for their size, Inspirationist churches were largely indistinguishable from residences, although unlike homes, they were never built of wood. In contrast to the brick Community Church Museum in Homestead, the High Amana Church was built of sandstone. Each village had a main church building which was the principal place of worship. The Saal (meeting hall) occupied the long middle section. The High Amana church was different from other Amana Colonies churches in that instead of two sets of doors for men and women to enter the church separately, this church only had one set of doors. Men and women entered through the same door and then were seated on opposite ends of the Saal. The largest meeting room in the principal church building was used for general church meetings. Residences, however, often had special church rooms which were used for daily prayers. Each church building was furnished with plain benches of scrubbed pine which took on a bleached appearance. Walls and ceilings were painted blue as they were in residences. The presiding elders sat facing the congregation on plain benches and a simple table held a lamp and the necessary books for worship and song. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the room and the room was always divided by a center aisle which was parallel to the two shorter side walls of the church.

[photo]
Christmas Village Scene, painting by John Noe
Photograph from "The Amana Colonies" printed by the Amana Society in 1974

Today, the Arts Guild showcases historic Amana folk art as well as the present work of local craftspeople. The Amana Arts Guild serves to preserve the folk art of past generations and to pass on artistic traditions to future generations. Many of Amana's traditional art forms are still practiced today. Area artisans still practice woodworking, willow basketry, needlework, quilting, blacksmithing, rug-making and weaving. Originally, while crafts were permitted, paintings and frivolous wall decorations were forbidden. If a picture were to hang on a wall, it had to have a religious theme. A popular craft among the Amana women was embroidery. Samplers and prayers were often embroidered using the German language. The art of creating lithograph prints was also practiced by Amana natives, especially by the Prestele family. Joseph Prestele, born in 1796 and an elder when the group came to America, was commissioned by the United States government to produce prints of fruits and flowers for the government and the Smithsonian Institution. Joseph's sons, Henry and Gottlieb, also shared his talents and many of the family's prints are on display at The Museum of Amana History in main Amana.

Other significant Amana artists include Carl Flick and John No. Flick started painting and drawing in 1929 at age 26. He studied and painted with Grant Wood and his paintings were included in national traveling exhibits and in east coast galleries. In 1954, the year of No's death, President Eisenhower admired No's painting displayed at the Iowa State Fair's Amateur Art Show, and No gave him the painting. Artist Marvin Cone described No as a "meticulous and conscientious craftsman who makes the old Amana live."

The Amana Arts Guild Center is located at 1210 G St., in High Amana. It is open May-September 10:30am to 4:30pm Wednesday-Sunday, October: 10:30am to 4:30pm weekends. Please call 319-622-3678 or visit their website for further information.

 

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