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Arts & Culture
Iowa City has often been referred to as the Athens of the Midwest because of its rich cultural and educational offerings. Two of Iowa’s certified cultural and entertainment districts are positioned in the heart of Iowa City. The University of Iowa campus, intertwined with Downtown, showcases the Old Capitol Museum, the Pentacrest Museums, and other cultural attractions throughout our community.

Arts & Cultural Directory

A UNESCO City of Literature Designation
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Iowa City as the world’s third City of Literature in November 2008 joining Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia. The work of so many has earned Iowa City recognition as one of only five UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world. The designation provides additional international luster to the community and serve to validate the area’s long history of nurturing the literary arts and those who appreciate them.
City of Literature

For some 70 years, the University of Iowa has maintained the world’s foremost program in creative writing—the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. For the last four decades, the Workshop’s companion organization, the International Writing Program, has attracted authors from around the globe to participate in its revolving residency program. As a consequence, the area enjoys a longstanding, international reputation as a center for literary creation that is much out of scale with its population. Workshop alumni have won 12 Pulitzer Prizes for Literature and four alumni have served as U.S. Poet Laureate.

The Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty community boasts 13 museums, 10 literary presses, nine programs offering regularly scheduled readings, at least five writing outreach programs, and seven community and professional theater companies. By one estimate, there are 300 places to buy a book in the area.

Great Places DesignationGreat Places logo
The Iowa City / Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau along with the City's of Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, and University of Iowa collaborated to apply for the state designation and was selected in November of 2009 as an Iowa Great Place.

Iowa Great Places is a program designed to promote bold thought, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the local and regional level in Iowa. Places – neighborhoods, cities, counties, or regions – engage in an inclusive strategic planning process to assess their strengths and areas of opportunity, create a vision for augmenting their unique attributes and quality of life, and design a roadmap to turn that vision into realty.

Why our community? A bold assertion: Pound for pound, this area constitutes the most literate community in the world.