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 Louise Garst McBroom  (1891 - 1944)

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Lived/Active: Iowa      Known for: Portrait, figure, genre and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 4
Louise Garst McBroom
Woman with a Black Hat (Portrait of Mrs. Warren Garst)
Photographed by Leland M. Searles
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Louise Garst McBroom (Mrs. Leland A. McBroom) (1891-1944)

A member of one of Iowa's most distinguished families, Louise Garst was born in February 1891 in Coon Rapids, Iowa.  Her father, Warren Garst, owned and operated a local, general store with his brother, Edward.  The Garst Store, which opened in 1869, proved to be a thriving venture, and in 1902, the brothers launched their second business effort, the Iowa Savings Bank .  Garst's political aspirations led him to the Iowa State Senate in 1893, serving Sac, Carroll, and Greene counties. He later served in the 25th through 31st Iowa General Assemblies (1894-1907), figuring prominently as the chair of the Senate's appropriations committee.  In 1906, Garst was nominated for the office of Lieutenant Governor and was inaugurated on January 17, 1907, serving with Albert B. Cummins, Iowa's eighteenth governor.  Cummings resigned in November 1908; Garst immediately assumed the state's highest office, serving as Iowa's nineteeth governor through January 14, 1909.  He returned to Coon Rapids and remained involved in the community.  His daughter, Louise, would bear her legacy through her life as an artist, primarily for her activities in the Des Moines area.

After leaving Coon Rapids, Louise graduated from Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA) in 1913.  She pursued art training with Charles Atherton Cumming at the Cumming School of Art (Des Moines) and with Robert Reid and John F. Carlson at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center.  Garst was a founding member of the Art Students Work Shop in Des Moines, an organization affiliated with the city's art association.  The group, led by Lowell Houser and Adrian Dornbush, catalyzed energies that would later launch the Des Moines Art Center. Garst's future husband, Leland A. McBroom ("Mickey") received his architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1916) and was affiliated with the local, notable firm Mellor & Meigs (1916-1917).  McBroom then served in the Army during World War I and returned to Des Moines, the birthplace of his parents.  Louise and Leland married in 1922; the couple was a common fixture at city, social events, and Garst was well-known in area art circles.

Leland pursued his professional aspirations, first in independent practice, then as a partner with Vernon Tinsley to form Tinsley & McBroom (1926).  McBroom joined the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1927; his accomplishments included the design of the Bankers Life headquarters building in Des Moines (1939-1940) and numerous, private homes.  Notably, McBroom was also responsible for a major remodelling effort at the home of Roswell and Elizabeth Garst, world-famous hosts of Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev in September 1959.  During the 1920s, Louise's art talents may have directed themselves towards community involvement, and in the 1930s, she achieved numerous accolades for her work.

Garst received first place from the Iowa Women's Club for her work "Young Woman Peeling an Apple" (1930) and attended both sessions of the Stone City Art Colony (1932, 1933).  Her recognition in statewide competitions continued in exhibitions for the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs (1932) and the Iowa State Fair's Iowa Art Salon (1934, 1935).  First place honors occured with the "Portrait of Mrs. Warren Garst" (1933, Des Moines Women's Club) and with "Late Summer" (1934, Iowa Artists Club).  The portait of her mother, Clara H. Clark, is complimented by the portrait of her father that remains in the Iowa governor's collection of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Garst's talents as both an artist and professional advocate for the Iowa arts community led to her appointment as Iowa's WPA program director from 1936-1937.  McBroom was known as a mentor to young, Iowa artists; she and her husband bore strong ties to Glenn Chamberlain, providing the young artist with housing and financial support.

By 1940, with Leland experiencing poor health, the couple chose to leave Iowa, sold their household goods and art collection, purchased a large yacht, and attempted a global cruise.  After twelve months and the eruption of World War II, the McBrooms returned to Iowa briefly.  Leland later served overseas in the Army (1941-1942), and was eventually stationed in Washington, D.C. as a supervising engineer at the Pentagon.  His wife spent much of the war in Mexico, including a six month sojourn with her niece, Jane.  Family history recalls that the pair took life drawing classes in the home studio of Frida Kahlo.  The couple's deaths came tragically and within a short time period.  Louise Garst McBroom died in a November 1944 accident in McComb, Illinois.  Her husband died in October 1945 in Des Moines while on convalescent leave.

Researched and written by Kristy Raine, Reference Librarian and Archivist. Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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