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Wright at Home

Newcomer embraces creative journey in Iowa

The latest plot-twist in Mia Reed’s compelling life story? The former East Coast investment banker, television and film producer, and tattoo artist agent has become an Iowan.

Mia moved to Oskaloosa in 2021 after making the winning bid for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Alsop House at auction. She looks right at home here—with her books, contemporary art collection and pets bringing the space to life. But Reed initially balked at the idea of buying a landmark.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d own a Wright house,” she said. After North Carolina neighbor and Oskaloosa native Beth Crookham encouraged her to look at the property, Mia told her friend, “‘That's crazy. Nobody owns a Frank Lloyd Wright house. It owns you.’”

Ultimately, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spearhead the restoration of a significant structure. After all, Mia’s father was an acclaimed architect and her mother a sculptor and celebrated ceramicist, so she’s always been drawn to design.

“Creativity is in my DNA,” Mia said.

Crafting a Creative Community

Although Mia moved to Iowa without much of a local network, Oskaloosa was her North Carolina neighbor’s hometown, where her father, Joe Crookham, co-founded Musco Lighting.

“The first thing on my mind was to ask what sort of arts and culture is available,” Mia said.

Quite a bit, as she soon discovered. Mia was instrumental in pulling together the city’s Iowa Great Places designation in 2022, which recognizes the development of creative and cultural assets, as part of a creative economy consulting contract. This meant not just joining groups but convening stakeholders around a shared vision for celebrating and fostering creativity.

“Mia expanded the Arts Roundtable,” Lauren Terrell, a fellow Iowa transplant who considers Mia a mentor, said. Lauren recently launched Studio Osky, an art collective and entertainment hub in a former Mercy Clinic building. She helps host a monthly art crawl that builds connectivity between the studio, Oskaloosa’s art center and other businesses and organizations with cultural offerings.

Lauren and Mia both feel the time is right to take Oskaloosa from ‘hidden gem’ to distinctive destination. The two believe collaboration is key to growing the scene.

“Now, all the arts and culture groups work together,” Lauren said. “We’ve been discussing how Studio Osky can be involved in the growth of the town’s offerings to make it an architectural icon.”

Designing a Destination

The Alsop House, which was designed in 1947 and completed in 1951, has never been remodeled and retains all its original furniture. Step into the open living area and its woodwork, natural light and brick fireplace are recognizably Wright. The architect’s blueprints are spread out on the dining room table.

“When I first started walking through it, I said, ‘I feel like I'm on a ship,” Mia recalled. “My ship came in.”

Moving into a significant example of Midcentury Usonian design (a style made famous by Wright) meant a major commitment to restoration. That’s why Mia is forming a foundation focused on preserving the home in perpetuity.

“We want to protect the original furniture, we want to protect the drawings, and we want to protect all these archives,” said Mia, who also recently joined the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy as a board member.

For now, the house remains a private residence. But because she sees herself as a steward of the space, Mia plans to open the home to public for the first time on select dates later this year. The Alsop House will then join Cedar Rock State Park's Walter Estate, the Historic Park Inn Hotel and Stockman House as Iowa's Frank Lloyd Wright Destinations.

In the meantime, she delights in seeing her home through visitors’ eyes. Even the delivery person who dropped off her temporary refrigerator has been enthralled.

“I saw this tough guy melt and turn into a student,” Mia said, describing his reaction to the space. “That was when I knew I wanted to open it up for education.”

Mia is already collaborating with Iowa State University’s College of Design to bring architecture students into the Alsop House.

“I’m here to stay and help,” Mia said. “And my number one focus as a change agent is empowering the younger generations.”

Published June 28, 2023

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