A Small, Barn-like Building
The Pearson Lakes Art Center was founded in a small, barn-like building, and served as an informal gathering place. The second location had a tree growing out of it and summer breezes blowing in. Started by a group of determined painters, it has struggled, stretched and grown due to the commitment of the community and the dedication of its volunteers and donors.
In 1991, the Pearson Lakes Art Center moved to its present site, and although its size, location, facilities and capabilities may have changed, its mission remains the same… to broaden horizons through the arts.
The Pearson Lakes Art Center delivers educational programming to students of all ages through instructional classes, lectures and exhibitions; exposes community members to the numerous forms of art including visual, music, drama, writing and film; serves as an advocate for the arts with partners in the schools and other neighboring organizations; and provides an important outlet for local and regional artists to exhibit and market their work. The Pearson Lakes Art Center is also fortunate to display the Pearson Art Collection.
The Pearson Lakes Art Center belongs to the community; it is an additional benefit to living in the area; it exists due to the generosity, vision and hard work of in-numerous community members; and it is continually changing, updating and evolving. It is a meeting place, a learning center, a safe harbor, and a creative outlet. It embraces everyone.
In 1999, a one million dollar endowment campaign began, and within less than a year, the goal was reached with cash and pledges. Such a successful campaign gave impetus to explore the idea of a performing arts theatre and interactive gallery addition. A successful fund drive began and construction started in the summer of 2000.
With the beginning of construction, a visit was made to the University of Iowa / Hancher Auditorium. This meeting resulted in a collaborative relationship between the University of Iowa / Hancher Auditorium and the Pearson Lakes Art Center, which continues today.
The building was completed in September of 2002 with the addition of the Lauridsen Performing Arts Theatre, ArtSmart Interactive Gallery, Rita Leary Library and Pomerantz Reception Hall. Just as Hancher Auditorium opened their first season 30 years previously, so did the Lauridsen Performing Arts Theatre open with Preservation Hall Jazz from New Orleans.
In 2007 the Pearson Family funded the addition of two new galleries to the west of the facility. The upper level gallery, named after Gerald Bud & Bev Pearson, houses the newly donated Russian Art Collection. The lower level gallery named for John & Karen Goodenow houses many of the traveling exhibitions the PLAC presents. In honor of the continued contribution made by the Pearson family, the Lakes Art Center was renamed the Pearson Lakes Art Center.
The Pearson Lakes Art Center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. It is now one of the top art museums in the State of Iowa. Its collection is comparable to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the Brunnier Art Museum, the Figge Art Museum, the Blanden Art Museum, the MacNider Art Museum, the Waterloo Center for the Arts, and the Sioux City Art Center.
The permanent and loaned collection is composed of American, European, and Russian artists. Artists include: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Larry Rivers, Grandma Moses, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Frederick Brown, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Maynard Reece, Mark LaMair, Harry Kleeson, Mauricio Lasansky, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Christo, Marc Chagall, and Norman Rockwell. The 43 piece collection of Russian and Soviet-era art is one of the largest collections of Russian art outside the country.
Over the past fifty years, the Pearson Lakes Art Center has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.