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Court: Iowa college can’t count value of art panels

DES MOINES (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court says a small liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids must continue to classify seven Grant Wood paintings as restricted gifts that cannot be sold.

Coe College doesn’t want to sell the paintings but has considered them unrestricted gifts, allowing the college to count them as an asset and boost the value of its endowment fund.

An auditor in 2016 concluded they should be reclassified as restricted property, which reduces the endowment’s available assets by $5.4 million.

Hotel magnate Eugene Eppley gave the college the seven panels that once made up the Grant Wood mural “The Fruits of Iowa” in 1976. Eppley required the paintings to remain in Coe’s library, so auditors argued they can’t be sold and must be held as a restricted asset.

The college took the case to court and a district court judge concluded Eppley’s intent must be honored.

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday agreed, saying courts often require donation recipients to abide by donors’ wishes.

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