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University of Iowa News Release


July 17, 2009

IWP Director Christopher Merrill will announce City of Literature structure

University of Iowa International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, president of the UNESCO City of Literature board of directors in Iowa City, will introduce the community to the organization created to carry out the City of Literature mission when he speaks at the first Iowa City Book Festival at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 18 in Shambaugh Auditorium in the UI Main Library.

Iowa City was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the world's third City of Literature in November, joining Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia. In addition, 16 other cities worldwide form the Creative Cities Network, which honors and connects cultural centers for cinema, music, crafts and folk arts, design, media arts and gastronomy.

Those involved with the proposal that secured the designation for Iowa City have worked to form a permanent organization to expand its reach and scope. This includes drawing up articles of incorporation, approving by-laws and completing the process for nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3) organization.

In addition, a board of directors representing numerous area constituencies has been named and more than $100,000 has been raised through a variety of municipal, state and private concerns. This includes $50,000 from the UI and $35,000 from Humanities Iowa.

In the coming weeks, the group will launch a national search for an executive director. The director's office initially will be housed at the Iowa City Public Library. The board expects to have raised at least $250,000 and to have the executive director in place by early fall.

To create a solid and sustainable funding base, the organization will approach municipalities and other governmental agencies to request ongoing support. In addition, a group of private individuals, the "Group of 48," is being recruited to contribute to the long-term financial support of the organization. Willard and Susan Boyd will chair the group.

Programming will be a key component of the group's mission. Among projects under consideration are:

--A series of podcasts in which writers and critics from this country and abroad discuss what constitutes literary greatness

--Continuation and expansion of the annual book festival, which will celebrate ideas as well as new works of poetry and fiction

--Citywide literacy and reading programs

A Web site also is under construction that will serve as a clearinghouse for information about literary activities, festivals and best practices throughout the world and serve as a link among all three UNESCO Cities of Literature.

* * *

UNESCO City of Literature Board of Directors

President: Christopher Merrill, director, UI International Writing Program
Vice President:  Susan Craig, director, Iowa City Public Library
Secretary: Joshua Schamberger, president, Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Treasurer: Rod Sullivan, supervisor, Johnson County Board of Supervisors
At-Large: John Kenyon, editor, Corridor Business Journal

Board Members:
Sally Mason, UI president
Hugh Ferrer, assistant director, International Writing Program
Regenia Bailey, mayor, city of Iowa City
Dale Helling, interim city manager, city of Iowa City
Kelly Hayworth, city administrator, city of Coralville
Chris Hoffman, council member, city of North Liberty
Nancy Quellhorst, president, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
Jim Harris, Prairie Lights Bookstore
Wally Chappell, former director, Hancher Auditorium
Carolyn Brown, co-founder, Iowa Language & Literacy Institute

About Iowa City as a City of Literature

The city has a network of university, grassroots and civic institutions that teach, celebrate, nurture and study great writing. These include the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Translation Workshop, the Playwrights Workshop, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the International Writing Program, the Summer Writing Festival and the Young Writers' Studio at the UI. It has been the home to authors who have won more than 25 Pulitzer Prizes in literature. It also is home to 11 literary presses, dozens of literary events annually and the Iowa City Public Library, the busiest library in the state of Iowa.

About the UNESCO Creative Cities Network

The Creative Cities Network was designed to promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world. The cities that apply to join the network seek to promote their local creative scene; they share interest in UNESCO's mission toward cultural diversity. Once the city is appointed to the network, it can share experiences and create new opportunities for itself and others on a global platform, notably for activities based on the notion of "creative tourism." It has grown to 19 cities, in various creative realms, and meets annually to foster cooperation between the member cities and plan the network's direction.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Merrill,; Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),