This is a festive month at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, 920 Third Ave. S. This well-loved local institution is observing its 80th anniversary. Saturday, the celebratory activities will be in high gear. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be food, arts activities for the kids outside under tents, a marionette show and three indoor concerts in the Blanden's East Gallery.
On the day the Blanden was dedicated - June 5, 1932 - Edward Rowan, one of the speakers captured the mood of the moment magnificently.
"Through the possibility of artistic expression, men and women are enabled to lead fuller, richer lives despite 'hard times.'" Rowan told those who had come to help launch what became the first permanent art facility in Iowa.
The Depression years to which Rowan alluded were a time of exceptional hardship. The generosity of Charles G. Blanden, a businessman, poet and former mayor of Fort Dodge, made it possible to create this symbol of beauty and hope in a dark era of American history. It has remained a testament to this community's commitment to the arts for more than three quarters of a century. As the cultural life of this city unfolds in the decades ahead, the Blanden is poised to be the focal point.
Blanden chose our town as the site for a loving tribute to his late wife. The two met here. They ultimately made their home elsewhere, but Fort Dodge was fondly remembered. The grieving husband memorialized his wife by establishing the art treasure house that bears the family name. Only a year after the new museum was dedicated, Blanden died. His sister-in-law donated 26 works of art from his personal collection to the museum he had made possible. That helped ensure that the art it could display would be world-class from the very start. Today, the museum has approximately 1,000 works of art. About 5 percent are on display at any given time.
It's hard to imagine Fort Dodge without the Blanden. This splendid museum does our city proud.