University of Iowa

Community Storytelling Project - Grant Wood Loop

Students test video equipment in the IDEAL lab
Academic Year 
2017-2018
College/Department 
Urban & Regional Planning
Led by 

Students from a variety of disciplines taking Community Development in the Upper Midwest produced videos that tell stories from the Grant Wood Loop, located in eastern Iowa, through their own experiences in the region and interviews with local residents. 

In Spring 2018, the University of Iowa School of Urban and Regional Planning, in cooperation with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, offered its second Iowa Community Storytelling Project. The purpose of the Iowa Community Storytelling Project is to use the humanities and the arts, specifically storytelling and videography, to create stories about a specific place in Iowa.  The project was support by the University of Iowa's Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) Initiative.

The Mississippi River Region in eastern Iowa, which consists of Jones, Jackson, and Dubuque counties, features the heritage of Grant Wood as well as a picturesque, hilly terrain whose bluffs meet the Mississippi River.  The Region is dotted with small towns that are complemented by the Dubuque metropolitan area.    

The overall goal was to use these stories to portray to both residents and the broader public the richness of the Region, not only as a place to visit, but also as a place to live.   Graduate and advanced undergraduates in urban planning, the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, public health, and education were invited to join the class.  The starting point for these stories was the “experiences” conveyed by the Region’s Grant Wood Loop website. Teams of students worked with the instructor and with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities to produce professional quality films as well as to gain a greater appreciation for the challenges and opportunities faced by Upper Midwest communities and regions in Iowa.  “Travelogues” such as this will help both residents and visitors to develop a sense of place within the Grant Wood—Mississippi River Region which will inform planning for that region and its communities.    

Each group of students in the class used the Grant Wood Loop website to develop a route or transect through the Region that enabled the group to sample a portion of the region.  Students then took the opportunity to film the route, visit places featured on the Grant Wood Loop website, and talk to people who live or work in the Grant Wood Mississippi Region.  The results are the three short videos, each of which tells a story about the Grant Wood Mississippi River Region.