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Briggs, Lela Powers, 1896-1953



  • Existence: 1896 - 1953


Lela Powers Briggs, an artist, was born in Powersville, Iowa on March 17, 1896, the daughter of Leonard and Cora Powers. In 1902 the family moved to Waterloo. Powers graduated from East Waterloo High School, where she was art editor of the literary magazine and yearbook. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago School from 1916 to 1917 and Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) in Cedar Falls in 1917. In 1926 she enrolled in a correspondence course in commercial design at the Federal School in Minneapolis.

Lela Powers married Wilbur Briggs in 1918. For the next seventeen years they and their two sons lived in Waterloo. Until the early 1930s Lela Briggs devoted her time to family and community activities and spent little time painting. She was one of the founders of the Waterloo Art Association in 1932. In the summer of 1933 she attended the Stone City (Iowa) Colony and Art School, founded by Grant Wood.

In 1935 the Briggses moved to the family dairy farm northwest of La Porte City. Though actively involved in helping to manage the farm, Lela Briggs found time to paint, producing many studies of farm life and portraits of family and friends. She became known for her watercolors of rural landscapes and flowers and exhibited widely in the state, receiving many awards for her work. In the late 1940s and early 1950s she and her husband created ceramic doll heads, plates, bowls and jugs using a blue clay from their farm.

Briggs lived on the farm until she died of cancer in 1953. She was survived by her husband and their two sons, Roderick, an artist, and Donald, who operated the family farm.

In 1992 Roderick and Donald Briggs donated their mother's papers and paintings to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lela Powers Briggs papers

Identifier: IWA0043

An artist who farmed with her husband near La Porte, Iowa.

Dates: 1892-1992