In late 1846, Iowa became the 29th state to join the Union. To mark the 175th anniversary, on Dec. 28, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is rounding out a year of special initiatives for Iowans of all ages, all across the state.
“This is a time to learn about our state’s history and celebrate what it means to be an Iowan,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said recently. “We can find inspiration from the past and rise to the challenges of today by tapping into our state’s authentic art, history and culture.”
Two of the department’s divisions, the State Historical Society of Iowa and Iowa Arts Council, recently teamed up to publish a special art-filled edition of the state’s leading history journal, The Annals of Iowa, which first rolled off the press in 1863.
The new edition of The Annals of Iowa features two overview articles about the enduring value and ever-shifting evolution of Iowa history itself, along with nine additional essays on specific topics such as agriculture, education and politics. The journal also features 17 original works of Iowa-inspired art created by artists from across the state, including Davenport photographer Matthew Terry.
The 33-year-old shutterbug has been shooting professionally for 11 years, and in 2020 received an Iowa Arts Council grant. “I try to stay up to date on the various opportunities for Iowa-based artists, in addition to out-of-state opportunities,” Terry said this week. “It was through an e-mail from the Iowa Arts Council this past spring that I became aware of this 175th-anniversary project.”
The assignment for the project was to submit pieces of art that in some way represented, or otherwise showcased, Iowa.
Terry submitted a black-and-white image of his titled, “The Absence of Advertisement I,” that is featured in the 175th Anniversary Edition of The Annals of Iowa. It can be accessed at https://iowaculture.gov/history/publications/annals-iowa. There’s also a video at that link that details the printing of the journal and the art within.
“As an exhibiting artist I do get to see my work on display, however the majority of these exhibits are temporary, so seeing my work published in such a way has a more lasting feel,” Terry said. “This journal has a lot of focus on Iowa’s past and relating it with the present and and it’s thrilling to feel like my photograph has become a part of that history even if in a very small sense.”
“The Absence of Advertisement I” was shot off Interstate 80 northwest of Davenport.
“With the particular image of mine, I was attempting to showcase the appeal of something that is not necessarily eye-catching. We’ve all likely seen something as mundane as a forgotten sign/billboard, and it can represent a forgotten, or otherwise deteriorating, past,” Terry said. “The way it rises above the growth of an Iowa/Midwestern field creates an intriguing duality between progress and depletion, both natural and man-made which I believe is a great depiction of the state.”
Growing up in the Midwest, Terry long felt alienated in both a physical and mental sense, according to his bio at matthewterryphoto.com. Lost within his surroundings, he found photography, and through this medium he found a way to connect with other people who also felt a similar level of detachment.
“Endlessly intrigued by the ability to capture and hold a distinct moment in time within a world constantly in motion, Matthew combines subjective perspective with universal appeal to create conceptual imagery that questions not only the identity of who we are, but also how we interact & relate to that which surrounds us,” his site says.
“We’re taking this moment, this 175th anniversary, as a milestone moment to take a breath and see where we’ve gone and to chart a course for the future,” Annals editor Andrew Klumpp said.
Klumpp said Terry’s work “captured something of what some may perceive to be Iowa. There’s also a sense of history and story within it. Located on a vast landscape, you capture something that is quintessentially Iowan, the open spaces that have existed long before the state even existed,” he said of the photo.
“The billboard itself tells a bit of the story, because we know that even though it is in disrepair now, there was a time when it was shiny and new, speaking to the hopes and promises of new opportunities,” Klumpp said. “While the piece is rooted in a place and gives hints that it is sitting on the Iowa prairies, it also resonates with experiences throughout the country.”
Terry’s piece “also finds a great conversation partner in Pamela Riney-Kehrberg’s article (in Annals of Iowa) inasmuch as Pam’s piece talks about how places like Iowa are not simply fly-over country, but contain important and interesting stories that nuance and fill out dominant narratives,” he added. “There is almost a call and response between Terry and Riney-Kehrberg’s work in that way.”
More ways to celebrate the state’s 175th
In addition to reading the journal, here are more ways Iowans can commemorate Iowa’s 175th anniversary:
- Attend the annual Celebrate Iowa Gala on Dec. 10 at the Scottish Rite Consistory in Des Moines. The state’s premier cultural event showcases Iowa history, art, music and cuisine.
- Browse the new Days of Learning collection of online resources – videos, articles, book recommendations and more – curated by experts from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and partner organizations from across the state.
- Explore the new Iowa History Collections Catalog, which unifies the state’s collection of more than 200 million pieces of history – documents, photos, artifacts and more – into a free, easy-to-search online database.
- Join Goldie’s Kids Club to enjoy a mix of in-person and at-home activities designed for young historians and their families.
- Create a self-portrait and submit it for a special collaborative display of Iowans from across the state.
- Visit the “Iowa’s People & Places” exhibit at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines, any day Tuesday through Friday, during guided tours on Dec. 28, or virtually 24/7 through an interactive 360-degree virtual tour. Additionally, Iowans can visit the mobile museum that is touring all 99 counties in a custom-built Winnebago or any of the pop-up displays in every county. Iowans can still request one of the mail-order displays, which traces 13,000 years of Iowa history.
- Tune in online to an “Iowa History 101” webinar or “Iowa Stories” presentation or watch recordings of previous sessions, which have covered everything from jazz to baseball to the Civil War. Upcoming webinars will feature Annals of Iowa cover artist Molly Wood on botanical photographs, on Oct. 28; University of Iowa scholar Dwain Coleman on Black veterans of the Civil War, on Nov. 4; and State Curator Leo Landis on Donna Reed and the 75th anniversary of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” on Dec. 9.
- Join the new Iowa History Book Club, which next meets online on Dec. 9 to discuss “On Behalf of the Family Farm: Iowa Women’s Farm Activism since 1945,” by Jenny Barker-Devine.
- Create and install a State Historical Marker to tell the stories of local people and places that played a role in Iowa’s past. New funds are available for grants up to $2,000.
More information about all of these programs can be found online at iowaculture.gov