Iowa City was recently named a City of Literature by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). With a population of less than seventy thousand people, Iowa City is the third city to receive the distinction, following Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia. The Cities of Literature are one facet of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network program, whose members are cultural centers that are making significant contributions to the cultivation of the arts.
On the UNESCO Web site, the organization commends Iowa City's "commitment to literary culture through the diversity of grassroots initiatives, such as the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival," and states that the community could serve as "an instructional model and inspiration for other small cities to promote local economic and sociocultural development through creative industries." According to a press release from the University of Iowa, Iowa City is home to eleven literary presses, hosts over 180 writing-related events each year, and has attracted countless poets and authors to live in, work in, and visit the city.
"This is at once a celebration of the literary riches and resources of Iowa City and a spur to action," said Christopher Merrill, director of the University of Iowa International Writing Program and leader of the committee that applied for the designation. "We look forward to working with our new partners in the Creative Cities Network—to forging dynamic relationships with writers, artists and others committed to the life of discovery."
With the inclusion of Iowa City, the Creative Cities Network comprises sixteen member cities recognized as cultural centers for literature, cinema, music, crafts and folk arts, design, media arts, and gastronomy. The cities are encouraged to work together—and with the private and public sectors of their own communities—to continue to promote developments in the arts.