IOWA Magazine | 01-20-2022

Things We Love About the University of Iowa at 175: Arts

1 minute read
Ten reasons Hawkeyes are known for their rich cultural contributions


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In 1922, Iowa became the first public university in the nation to accept creative works as theses for graduate degrees in the arts.


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In 1934, acclaimed artist Grant Wood joined the faculty of the UI School of Art and Art History, just four years after painting American Gothic.


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The Iowa Writers’ Workshop was founded in 1936 as the nation’s first university-sponsored program in creative writing, and its long line of graduates who have made a lasting imprint on American literature include Flannery O’Connor (47MFA), John Irving (67MFA), and Rita Dove (77MFA).


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Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams (38BA) and Emmy-winning actor Gene Wilder (55BA) are among the graduates of Iowa’s storied theatre arts department, which prides itself in showcasing original student work.


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Catlett Residence Hall is named after internationally renowned printmaker and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett (40MFA), who in 1940 became the first African American woman in the nation to receive a Master of Fine Arts degree.


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In 1967, Paul Engle (32MA) and Hualing Nieh (66MFA) founded the first and only international writing program in the world at Iowa, bringing 27 writers from 18 countries to Iowa City that first year.


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In 2008, Iowa City became the world’s third UNESCO City of Literature, where a literary walk invites visitors to retrace the steps of the town’s most prominent writers.


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U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo (78MFA) is the first Native American to hold the title and the eighth Iowa graduate to be named to the position.


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Mural, Jackson Pollock's midcentury masterpiece (pictured at top), remains the crown jewel of the UI Stanley Museum of Art’s collection, headlining shows at prominent art museums around the world.


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Nearly 50 Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to UI faculty members or alumni, including to writers affiliated with the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Other winners have specialized in journalism, editorial cartooning, drama, music, theater, or history.

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