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Speakers 2010-2014

Speakers 2013-2014

Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel

Tom Milligan

Prairie Rebel Photo



In September 2013, award-winning actor Tom Milligan portrayed artist Grant Wood in his performance of Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel. The one-act play brought the man behind the famous painting to life and explained how this Iowan’s work changed the art world forever.

Tom Milligan is an Iowa born award winning actor in his 40th year as an actor/director/scene designer and producer. Originally from Des Moines, his career has taken him around the Midwest with a variety of projects and venues, many dealing with Iowa history. "Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel" and it's association with Humanities Iowa is now in its 18th year. Tom also portrays the Iowan of the Century Henry A. Wallace as well as former Des Moines librarian Forrest Spaulding.

The Three Lives of Grant Wood’s American Gothic

Grant Wood - American GothicWanda Corn Photo





In November 2013 The Iowa History Center presented renowned Art Historian Dr. Wanda Corn, an eminent student of late-19th- and early-20th-century American art and photography and author of “Grant Wood’s American Gothic: Regionalist, Modernist, Internationalist.” The Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History at Stanford University, she retired from teaching in 2007 and continues to write and to be a guest curator of major museum exhibitions. Dr. Corn spoke about American Gothic’s strange odyssey from the studio of a relatively-unknown Iowa artist 75 years ago to its international celebrity today. Becoming ubiquitous, this image has traveled throughout America and around the globe, and is now familiar to people who may not know where Iowa is and would not recognize Wood’s name.
This program made possible in part through the generous support of Humanities Iowa, the James W. Hubbell Jr. and Helen H. Hubbell Foundation and the Wonder of Words Festival.

Corn Event

Looking After Minidoka

Neil Nakadate PhotoBook Cover for Looking After Minidoka



During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and incarcerated by the U.S. government. In "Looking After Minidok," the internment camp years become a prism for understanding three generations of Japanese-American life, from immigration to the end of the twentieth century. Iowa State University Professor Neil Nakadate blends history, poetry, rescued memory, and family stories in an American narrative of hope and disappointment, language and education, employment and social standing, prejudice and pain, communal values and personal dreams.

"Looking After Minidoka is an innovative and engaging excursion into buried history—global and personal. A compelling family narrative, peppered with fragments of memory, history, and poetry, this heartfelt memoir underscores the power of the American Dream, as well as how easily fear and intolerance can corrupt it."
          —Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness

Speakers 2012-2013

America's Darling

America's Darling, a documentary film that chronicles the life of Ding Darling, premiered in October 2012. Darling was a longtime cartoonist for the Des Moines Register and a leading figure in the conservation movement.

David Plowden's Iowa

David Plowden and Director of Humanities Iowa Chris Rossi spoke about the exhibit David Plowden's Iowa, with Plowden recounting his experiences traveling and photographing Iowa, sharing the stories behind his photographs.

The Farm Crisis

In June 2012, the Iowa History Center and the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs hosted the premiere of Iowa Public Television’s “The Farm Crisis,” a 90-minute film about the tragic and devastating agricultural depression of the 1980s.  The evening also featured documentarian Laurel Bower Burgmaier and special guest NBC News correspondent Harry Smith, who narrated the film.

Speakers 2011-2012

Main Street Library

Wayne Wiegand, author of Main Street Public Library, spoke about the role of libraries in the Midwest from the late 19th through the early 20thcenturies.

"In his study of four emblematic public libraries, Wiegand challenges both traditional perceptions and professional rhetoric about the role of libraries in small-town communities."                                                                                           --University of Iowa Press

Wayne Wiegand Headshot

Iowa and the Civil War

Simpson History Professor Nick Proctor spoke on Iowa and the Civil War, citing letters written to and by Iowa soldiers, at a reception for the State Historical Society of Iowa’s traveling exhibit, “The Fiery Trial: Iowa and the Civil War”.

2012 Presidential Race and Iowa Caucuses

Kathie Obradovich, political columnist of the Des Moines Register; Dennis Goldford, political scientist at Drake; and John Skipper of the Mason County Globe Gazette analyzed the 2012 presidential race and the Iowa Caucuses.

Brian Duffy and the Iowa Landscape

Renowned editorial cartoonist Brian Duffy exhibited a collection of his watercolors depicting the Iowa landscape. Duffy is often inspired while while riding his bike throughout the countryside.

Old Hogback

Blindness in Iowa

Karen Keninger talked about important historical events related to blindness in Iowa, the role of Iowans as leaders in the national civil rights movement for the blind, and recounted her personal experience as a blind person growing up in Iowa.

Karen Keninger Headshot

Speakers 2010-2011

Hollowing Out the Middle

Author Patrick Carr discussed his book Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain and What it Means for America. Carr and his associate Maria J. Kefalas moved to Iowa in 2001 and investigated the characteristics of "stayers", those who remain in their hometowns; "seekers", those who are pushed out of their hometowns to bigger and better things; and "returners", those who briefly leave to obtain a degree and then stay in their hometowns.

Peace Through Corn

Garst Guys - Peace Through Corn IHC Program

Actors Mike Cornelison and John Earl Robinson performed Peace Through Corn, a one-act play by Cynthia Mercati about the friendship between Roswell Garst and Nikita Krushchev.

"Peace Through Corn brings alive the amazing, true relation that developed during the late 1950s between a brash Iowa farmer and a powerful communist dictator...Garst and Khrushchev forged a unique human bond based on their mutual fascination with agricultural innovation, as well as their shared love of a good laugh and a ferocious debate."                         -- Humanities Iowa Press Release

Book Cover of Evelyn Birkby's Book


Neighboring on the Air

Evelyn Birkby described her experience at Simpson and her life as an author, radio homemaker, and newspaper columnist.  As a newspaper columnist and radio personality for 60 years, Birkby’s voice has been heard throughout the Midwest. She has written ten books, including cookbooks, genealogies, and histories.




Postville, U.S.A

Mark Grey and Michele Devlin, authors of Postville, U.S.A described the unique town of Postville, IA and the raid on its Kosher meat packing plant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mark Grey and Michele Devlin - Postville USA Authors