Iowa You Make Me Smile
Poetry could soon have its own version of Disney World in Coralville, Iowa.
The Iowa City/Coralville Chamber of Commerce and the Stories Project, a group of businesspersons, educators, and scholars, have proposed building a $90 million museum focused on language and literacy to be located on the Iowa River Landing near I-80.
“We're hoping to build on the literary heritage of Iowa," explained Christopher Merrill, the Director of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and the University’s liaison to the Stories Project, "and that heritage begins with poetry.”
The central building of proposed museum complex would be the “Story Center,” a combination gallery and presentation space that would include a “holovision show that demonstrates the magic of reading.”
The museum would also include a Hall of American Literary Achievement, a school and research center, and “Book Town,” a project put together with the help of Prairie Lights that would be “the world first adventure bookstore."
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that the ambitious project also hopes to create an annual literary award to rival the Pulitzer.
The proposed museum site had formerly been scheduled to become the world’s largest indoor rainforest, but that plan fell apart when the city broke off its relationship with the Earth Park Project in 2006.
The new plan for the 25-acre site presents a tourist attraction that would be a “natural outgrown of the area’s rich tradition of fostering outstanding writers,” according to the Stories Project website.
"We all know that language, literacy, and stories permeate our community far beyond the University walls,” said University of Iowa President, Sally Mason. She added, “Indeed, we are ‘The Writing Community.’ The Stories Project will help tell that story to the world.”
The Iowa City Press Citizen reported Tuesday that the project’s backers hope it can “bring 500,000 visitors and $4.5 million each year.”
The Iowa City Chamber of Commerce press release for the plan states, “Stories could become operational about three years after planning is completed and funding is obtained.”
Reaction from the community has been mixed, but the Coralville City Council plans to review the proposal this week to see if it will go forward.
Travis Nichols is the author of two books of poetry: Iowa (2010, Letter Machine Editions) and See Me Improving (2010); and he is the author of two novels: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (2012) and The More You Ignore Me (2013). He has contributed to The Believer, Paste, The...