Iowa History Center announces essay and photography contest

by Molly Monk & Tessa Lengeling

J. Seward Johnson’s God Bless America (GBA) statue has been on campus since July and now students have an opportunity through the Iowa History Center to get involved with it.

For the past two years, Bill Friedricks and the Iowa History Center have been working to bring GBA to Simpson College.

“Besides providing a perfect [photo opportunity], it encourages reflection on Grant Wood, the original American Gothic image, and Iowa’s past.” Friedricks said.

His dream to host the statue became a reality when the James W. Hubbell Jr. and Helen H. Hubbell Foundation and the State Historical Society covered the installation and rental fee.

“We couldn’t be happier with the statue and the way it has engaged Simpson, Indianola, and the broader community of central Iowa,” Friedricks said.

Further engagement opportunities are now here. The Iowa History Center is trying to use the statue to bring attention to the center and get Simpson’s students involved in the center’s activities.

The recently announced “What Would Wood Do?” photography and essay contest is its current push for students to get involved. The contest challenges participants to take a modern picture depicting what the American Gothic means to them. The essay portion includes writing a short essay examining Iowa history during the American Gothic painting’s time period, how it influenced Grant Wood and the contestant’s modern depiction of the statue.

In order to further publicize the statue and the center, the Iowa History Center has also announced three freshmen scholars to receive a scholarship in return for their work at the center throughout the school year. The scholars are Madison Wirth, Robert Lyons and Brandon Herring.

This is the first year the history center has had student scholars. Their main goal this year is to increase the presence of the history center on Simpson’s campus. The “What Would Wood Do?” contest is their next step to get the word out on campus through posters, emails and revamping the Facebook and Twitter pages.

“Our logo is everywhere which really helps with student awareness and leads to word of mouth and curiosity,” Madison Wirth, a freshman history scholar said. “When it was time to relate to students, we knew what students would want and would be attracted to.”

The scholars hope to find a way to let Iowa history thrive.

“We certainly hope it will revive an interest in Iowa history, or at least history in general, but we really just want more students to become more involved with the Iowa History Center and its events as an outcome of this event,” Lyons said. “Not many contests allow you to let your imagination and opinions run wild. This contest can be an expression of what you feel society is like or it could be a statement about what you feel is most influential in the lives of modern Iowans.”

The Iowa History Center’s “What Would Wood Do?” contest submissions are due by Oct. 22 to [email protected]. The $100 prize winner will be announced Nov. 5 at the Iowa History Center Speaker Series event featuring acclaimed art historian Wanda Corn discussing Grant Wood and the American Gothic.