The Muscatine Art Center acquires, preserves, and exhibits wide and varied collections, including works by American Regionalists Grant Wood and Marvin Cone (and other Stone City Colony associates) and artists associated with the University of Iowa such as Mauricio Lasansky, Virginia Myers, and other printmakers.
The Mississippi River Collection spans the entire length of the river with paintings, prints, maps, artifacts, sculpture, and ephemera. Works by Henry Lewis, John Mix Stanley, Captain Seth Eastman, William Bunn, Frederick Oakes Sylvester, and Joachim Ferdinand Richardt are part of this collection. The Mississippi River Collection and the Regionalist Collection were substantially enhanced by a bequest from E. Bradford Burns.
Some items, such as Allan Houser’s Prayer of Peace sculpture located in the courtyard of the Stanley Gallery, have become icons. Other donated works, such as Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Lotus, have prompted out-of-state art museums to borrow the work for temporary exhibition.
In 1992, twenty-seven works of art were presented as a gift to the Muscatine Art Center from the estate of Mary Musser Gilmore, niece of Laura Musser, given in memory of Mrs. Gilmore’s mother and father, Sarah Walker Musser and Richard Drew Musser. Mrs. Gilmore once stated that her aunt Laura was responsible for her entrée into art appreciation. She traveled frequently in Europe and especially loved France, which inspired her to collect works by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy, George Rouault, Henri Matisse, and other internationally recognized artists. In 2010, an additional eleven works of art from the Gilmore Collection were gifted to the Muscatine Art Center via the Sarah King Wilmer estate, daughter of Mary Musser Gilmore.
The Muscatine History Collection is as varied as the history of the town itself. Collection highlights include artifacts related to quack doctor Norman Baker and his radio station KTNT (Know the Naked Truth), author Ellis Parker Butler, speed boat champion Chap Hanley, Peter Mar toys, pioneer settlers, holiday traditions, the Civil War, local industries, and small businesses. Artifacts related to the pearl button industry, photographer Oscar Grossheim, the Muscatine High Bridge, broom making, cigar shops, passenger and freight railroad lines, and local churches help to tell the stories that make Muscatine a unique place.