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Iowa Idea

The Iowa Idea: Building a Future Legacy with Collaboration

Matt ArnoldThe first talk at this year’s Big Design Conference is about the Iowa Idea by Matt Arnold.

First conceived in the 1920s at the University of Iowa, The Iowa Idea brought practicing artists to campus to collaborate with scholars and students–a revolutionary idea at the time.

The collaboration has established a 100 year legacy with results that include: producing the first Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Iowa’s International Writing Program, and Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Matt’s talk will provide a brief history of The Iowa Idea. Then, Matt will examine what he has learned launching his own podcast, where he interviews practitioners and craftspeople.

You can find out more on the podcast at It is a 21st-century vision of the Iowa Idea.

Matt’s talk will highlight challenges faced to bring the original Iowa Idea to life. From a legacy perspective, he will invite modern practitioners to examine modern approaches to the Iowa Idea. In a world of growing complexity, we need to embrace the spirit of the Iowa Idea.

Finally, Matt will discuss how the themes that produced the original Iowa Idea are even more important today, as we face complex, wicked problems.

View the conference schedule and speakers.

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