Local Libraries LIT (Listen, Initiate, Talk) will feature Roxane Gay, award-winning author and contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times, on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 6:30 PM. This is the third virtual event in a new program series offered by public libraries in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, and University of Iowa Libraries with support from The Tuesday Agency.
Roxane Gay won the Paul Engle Prize presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature in 2016. Trailblazing, luminous, essential reading, and deeply moving are among the descriptions used for her writing. Gay is the author of Ayiti, An Untamed State, as well as the bestselling books Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. She is the first Black woman to become a lead writer for Marvel with the comic book series World of Wakanda (Black Panther). Her work garners international acclaim for its reflective exploration of feminism and social criticism. With a deft eye on modern culture, she brilliantly critiques its ebb and flow with both wit and ferocity.
“It has been a pleasure to partner with the Coralville, North Liberty, and Iowa City public libraries on the Local Libraries LIT initiative. ‘We’re in it together’ has been a common refrain of late,” says John Culshaw, Jack B. King University Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries “and the joint effort of our libraries to virtually welcome talented writers like Roxane Gay is a reminder of how the power of story helps to inspire, build, and maintain diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community.”
The goal of Local Libraries LIT is to grow a thriving community which shines with diversity, equity, and inclusion. Open to the public.
For those distant to campus, or who would like to experience the latest Main Library Gallery exhibition from home, a virtual tour of Building Our Own Community:50 Years of the Latino Native American Cultural Center, Founded by Chicano and American Indian Students in 1971 is now available online.
The tour features 360° photos of the Main Library Gallery, which allow the viewer to move from area to area. The text panels and the cases containing the items on display are clickable, meaning close-up views of the items are available along with narrative from curators Rachel Garza Carreón and Christopher Ortega.
The exhibition features a large number of carefully selected news articles from The Daily Iowan, all of which are linked to The Daily Iowan Archive and can be read in full with no access restriction.
Many materials are from the Latino Native American Cultural Center Records in the University Archives, digital versions of which can be read or viewed throughout the virtual exhibit or via the Iowa Digital Library. The exhibit also spotlights recent photographs from activism and activities supported by the Latino Native American Cultural Center. A special digital pamphlet containing personal notes from the curators is located near the gallery’s virtual front doors, and is also on the Main Library Gallery website.
An immersive reader option is readily available in each section of the virtual exhibit to read the detailed image descriptions for each piece on display out loud.
In April 1974, the Chicano Indian-American Student Union (later the LNACC) at the University of Iowa hosted a two-day series of lectures, workshops, and performances in Iowa City. Chicano Conference ’74 was held in the Iowa Memorial Union. The purpose of the conference was “to create an awareness of, and to eradicate, the educational policies and social attitudes in both public and private sectors which have denied Chicanos their full rights as citizens, their enjoyment of liberty as a people, and their freedom as human beings.” As part of this gathering, an exhibition of art by Manuel Unzueta was presented. Mr. Unzueta, an internationally acclaimed Chicano artist, traveled to Iowa City for the conference from his home in Santa Barbara, California, where his many murals even now continue to inspire conversation and have become an important part of the area’s history.
During his stay in Iowa City, Mr. Unzueta visited the LNACC’s new location at 308 Melrose Avenue. He decided to paint a wall mural as a gift to the LNACC.
According to a Daily Iowan article from 2001, the mural was a “spontaneous product of a lively gathering at the center” in which students had an opportunity to meet with the artist. For years afterward, the mural was an energizing presence. It was the backdrop for crucial conversations, early activism on campus, social events, and community celebrations.
Over time, the mural began to show signs of deterioration. A local Chicano artist was hired in 2001 in an effort to restore it. The resulting changes, however, were polarizing. In the exhibition, Rachel Garza Carreón and Christopher Ortega explain that “these alterations were controversial because some community members felt that they changed the overall tone of the original mural.” During the restoration, “they altered the original in ways that had not been discussed beforehand, including changes in color and the removal of the original artist’s name and dedication (‘To all my carnales of Iowa. M. Unzueta, 1974’).” While many lamented the loss of the original mural, others in the community expressed gratitude to the artist working to improve its condition and help maintain the LNACC.
While the mural looks quite different today than it did in 1974, it continues to contribute to the atmosphere of community at the Center. Its story is an important part of LNACC history.
In the Main Library Gallery exhibition, the curators have placed a replica of the original mural in the center of the gallery. If visitors look closely, they will see that it consists of hundreds of photos from the LNACC over the years.