Skip to main content

Grant Wood’s When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow (1934) and Breaking the Prairie (1936–37)

This film documents two of Grant Wood’s murals, on permanent display at Iowa State University, Ames. The university commissioned Grant Wood to make murals for its library under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the federal government’s Depression-era relief program for artists established in December 1933. Wood chose as his theme a quotation from Daniel Webster’s 1840 remarks on agriculture: “when tillage begins, other arts follow.” His concurrent appointment as state director of the PWAP for Iowa limited his role to designing two murals for the university and supervising their execution by other artists. The first mural to be completed, devoted to agriculture, engineering, and homemaking, was installed at the top of the stairwell leading into the library in 1934; the second mural, showing a pioneer farmer plowing a field, was installed in the library’s lobby in 1937.



A 30-second online art project:
Ryan Kuo, Hateful Little Thing

Learn more

All visitors aged 12 and older must show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for admission to the Whitney, in accordance with NYC requirements. Visitors aged 18 and older will also be asked to show photo ID. Face coverings are required for all visitors. Learn more about the Whitney’s safety guidelines.