Time Machine

Piece of History: The artwork and teachings of Edwin Bruns

Edwin Bruns (right), the art director for the Cedar Rapids school district, teaches a YWCA art class in 1966 in Cedar Ra
Edwin Bruns (right), the art director for the Cedar Rapids school district, teaches a YWCA art class in 1966 in Cedar Rapids. (The History Center)

Edwin Bruns taught a variety of courses at the Cedar Rapids YWCA in the 1960s, including ones in oil painting for beginners, intermediate, advanced and figures.

The classes were so popular that even with 100 students enrolled in 1968, he still had a waiting list.

Bruns, who trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, was the director of art for the Cedar Rapids school district for many years.

His work was exhibited throughout the Midwest, sometimes alongside the work of his close friend and fellow regionalist, artist Grant Wood.

One of the Bruns’ best-known works is “The Seven Ages of a City,” a series he spent thousands of hours researching and then painting to show the development and entrepreneurial spirit of Cedar Rapids.

While the series is a beautiful and important work of art, the depiction of Indigenous people may not be completely accurate.

The “Seven Ages” paintings were collected in a booklet written by Sutherland Dows, president of the Iowa Electric Light and Power Co., who also commissioned the paintings, which are stored at The History Center.

Tara Templeman is curator at The History Center. Comments: curator@historycenter.org

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