The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded funds to Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature, to develop a video series and website showcasing the work of Iowa writers as part of a national public outreach program to expand access to the city’s many valuable writing resources.
“Iowa City has had an outsized influence on American literature,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “In granting it a City of Literature designation, UNESCO recognized the innovative leadership role that the Iowa Writers Workshop and the International Writing Program have played in fostering creativity through the written word.”
As the first university to offer a Master of Fine Arts degree program in creative writing, the University of Iowa has been used as a model for many of the over 300 creative writing programs that now thrive on campuses worldwide. Since 1995 graduates and faculty of the university have won more than 25 Pulitzer Prizes in literature. Authors who have lived, taught and studied in the city include Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Robert Penn Warren, Robert Lowell, Flannery O’Connor, Rita Dove, Jane Smiley, Robert Hass, John Irving, and Marilynne Robinson.
Iowa City is home to eleven literary presses and a range of print and online journals and literary blogs. The highly respected Center for the Book preserves and extends the art of bookmaking. The city has also established a network of university, grassroots, and civic institutions that teach, celebrate, encourage, and study great writing through 180 literary events a year, including readings and panel discussions, and the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program hosts a biennial NonfictioNow Conference that draws participants from around the world.
NEH’s $30,000 Chairman’s Grant will extend the reach of and encourage use of Iowa City’s many literary resources by supporting the production of a series of fifty video interviews with Iowa writers (both resident and visiting) on the craft and process of writing, to be broadcast both on a dedicated website as well as on television and in public spaces such as the Eastern Iowa Airport. These videos will document established and emerging authors’ work, philosophy, and processes and highlight Iowa City’s City of Literature program as a model of community collaboration that can be replicated across the country.
Iowa City was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008, joining such cities as Edinburgh, Scotland, Dublin, Ireland, Reykjavik, Iceland, Norwich, England, and Melbourne, Australia. It is the only city in the United States to receive this designation.