While Hannah and I are interns for The Englert, a lot of our job this summer has been to map out the arts ecosystem in Iowa City and to learn how to make it more accessible to the entire community instead of just a limited demographic. We have thus spent just as much time offsite visiting other arts nonprofits as we have in The Englert offices.
At ninety-two, Dick Claeys is the oldest active rolle bolle player in Iowa and something of a local legend. In the interview I conducted with him, he spoke about his ninety years of experience playing the game that his father brought over with him when he emigrated from Belgium in 1911. This interview was conducted on July 3rd and has been edited for brevity and clarity.
In addition to writing program notes for parts of Hancher's 2019-2020 season, I am also spending a part of my internship recording those concert comments as a podcast, titled, "Tonight's Program." The title comes from Art Canter, who wrote program notes for Hancher for some 30 years, and he always titled his notes in the same way.
When we think of the people that populate a college campus, faculty members are often the first people that come to mind. This is especially true at research intensive universities like Iowa. But when it comes to expanding our knowledge base about all the humanities can teach us, we ignore too many people. For the moment, I want to focus on one group: staff members at the University of Iowa.
What does research look like? Can everything be found in a library or online? What can we gain from experiencing a place that is otherwise fully-documented in books and articles?
The Strengthen, Grow, Evolve Campaign at The Englert is in full swing. On Saturday, June 22nd, I arrived at the SGE tent for the Downtown Iowa Block Party. Despite the calls for rain all day, the sky was clear and the air breezy. At the tent was Grace, an employee of The Englert, as well as Joe Tiefenthaler, the Executive Director of FilmScene, and Andrew Sherburne, the Marketing Director of FilmScene. I was heartened to see not just volunteers for the tent, but the leadership for the campaign present and engaged with the community.
When students first step onto the University of Iowa campus their first year, it is an explosion of new experiences and day-to-day learning opportunities. First Hawkeye football game. Eating lunch on the Pentacrest lawn. Cramming for those first midterm exams in the Main Library. All these touchpoints shape the academic life of UI students.
This is a twelve-inch-wide culvert pipe. I point it out to you only because I needed it pointed out to me, by Chris Ward, the city administrator of the town of Vinton, Iowa. I needed it pointed out to me because culvert pipes (twelve-inch or otherwise) are designed and put in place so as not to be seen—so as to channel water beneath roads and sidewalks and on its way to the next largest creek, stream, or river.
In reading the introduction to Generous Thinking by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, I was struck by the moment where she differentiates between the notion of community as evoking a “dangerous, mythical notion of organic unity” instead of a “form of solidarity, of coalition-building.” I agree with Fitzpatrick that the romanticized, fanciful understanding of community as something easy, spontaneous, and naturally occurring is destructive.
My role thus far in writing about forty of Iowa’s rural historic sites for the Iowa Valley RC&D’s Scenic Byway Tour has been an evolving amalgamation of journalist, historian, and tourist. Drives between my home in Iowa City and the various rural sites are long and scenic, winding around cornfields and pastures.