Amana Arts Guild
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Gordon Kellenberger has devoted his time and effort to the preservation of the Amana Colonies’ cultural heritage since the 1970s. As an educator, community scholar, author and artist, he has supported the arts through a variety of activities and organizations. Kellenberger is a founding member of the Amana Arts Guild, an organization dedicated to the conservation and proliferation of the craft traditions of Iowa’s Amana Colonies. Assisting local artisans in the creation of authentic Amana folk arts, he encourages them to sell their work in the Guild’s sales shop.
The Guild sponsors classes, workshops and exhibits to help pass on traditional skills to a new generation. An art center provides space for these activities as well as an outlet for the sale of craft items made by local artists. Multigenerational classes sponsored by the Guild include basketry, quilting, needlework, tinsmithing, blacksmithing, rug making, woodworking and ethnic cooking. Skilled elderly residents and master artisans assist in the instruction. As many of the artisans are reaching an advanced age, the Guild has also initiated an intensive apprenticeship program.
As an educator and scholar, Gordon has researched folk arts through oral histories that led to published materials and exhibits. He has also continued this work in a local cultural heritage project, Amana Tomorrow. Gordon has also been instrumental in developing Time and Tradition, a folklife curriculum for schools. Presenting lectures and demonstrations in Iowa schools, Gordon has introduced children to the beauty and skill of traditional crafts, expanding their definitions, concepts and appreciation of art. For over twenty years, his Arts Iowa workshops have provided intensive art experiences as well as educational credit to educators and artists. Collaboration with arts and heritage organizations has provided Gordon the opportunity to nationally exhibit the work of traditional artists. He has participated in the Smithsonian Folklore Summer Institute, a program for community scholars, and has completed fieldwork for the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife.
Gordon Kellenberger’s steadfast, life-long support of the arts has created interest and enthusiasm in local culture and revived crafts. His efforts have resulted in the growing national interest in Iowa communities like Amana, and increased our own respect and pride in our Iowa roots.
For more information about traditional arts in the Amana Colonies, see Steve Ohrn’s Remaining Faithful: Amana Folk Art in Transition, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Des Moines, 1988, for sale at the Amana Arts Guild.