Author Archive for Candice Smith



Bare wall syndrome?

by Candice Smith on July 27th, 2018

Attention all newcomers to Iowa City and new, or soon-to-be, apartment dwellers: do you have the dreaded “bare wall syndrome?” Are you surrounded by unsightly beige expanses? Are your walls freckled with the Spackle from previous tenants and their pictures and posters? Do you long for something to gaze at besides the nondescript shade of white covering the drywall, or the window-view of your neighbors across the street? If so, you need help, now!

Iowa City Public Library has the remedy: our Art-To-Go collection! Take your pick from 400 framed prints and original works of art by local artists! Cardholders can check out two pieces at a time, for two months. All works are framed with wood or metal, and have secure wire hangers ,and covered in Plexi–all you need is a nail, a hammer (or heavy textbook), and a little elbow grease. Transform your walls, brighten up a hallway, turn any room into a very small, private gallery!

Recent acquisitions include:

Edgar Degas’ Swaying Dancer (Dancer in Green)
which captures a young ballerina executing a
graceful turn. Painted during the years of 1877-1879,
Degas’ masterful use of brisk strokes of paint convey a
sense of movement and transience.

 

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Trumpet, painted in 1984, using
acrylic and oil-stick. Basquiat was a young artist with Haitian
and Puerto Rican roots, and he went from spray painting on the
streets of New York City to displaying his works alongside
famous artists in a dizzyingly short amount of time. This work
displays his penchant for bold colors, words and poetry, and an
energy that is both demanding and joyful.

 

William Blake’s Jacob’s Ladder. This pen and ink drawing was
created in 1799-1806 by artist Blake, who was also a poet; he is
widely considered to be one of the foremost artists of the era
of Romanticism. This work depicts the Biblical subject of Jacob,
and the dream he had of the stairway to Heaven, as he fled from
his brother Esau. I believe it also shows a lady who’s sure,
all that glitters is gold.

 

Do Not Disturb! by Yoshitomo Nara. Nara has a knack for
picturing people and animals that are at once young and maybe
a little petulant, as well as wise and somehow at peace. This
sweet little dog reads a book, and his smile conveys the feeling
we all know of being so absorbed in a story, in the world of a
book, that we want nothing to intrude.

Drop by the Library and take in some art; it’s on the first floor, along the red wall between the main room and the Children’s Room. And get those walls fixed!

Eating up some history

by Candice Smith on July 16th, 2018

Some years ago I was vacationing with my friend Carrie in Krakow, Poland, and we found ourselves having dinner in a restaurant called Wierzynek. It has been around since 1364. I honestly don’t remember the food being anything spectacular, but that has more to do with being a vegetarian choosing from a traditional Polish menu. What I do remember is being amazed by the idea of sitting in a place where people from all walks of life had come to eat for hundreds of years. Touching the same walls, going through the same doors, seeing the same city square and market hall that they saw–it’s some weird sort of time-travel. I’m still enthralled by moments like that, and get the same feeling when I’m at a place like Clinton St. Social Club, where you climb the steep, narrow stairs that people have used for over a hundred years, see the worn, geometric tile floors, the old brick walls and huge wooden beams. We still have a fair amount of old structures in downtown Iowa City, and I always enjoy being in them, wondering what they used to be, how they were used, what happened in them (did you know the Yacht Club was a mortuary? Same for just about every building in the pedmall block of E. College St, north side, at one time or another). I was having pizza at Flight the other night, looking out of their windows at the view of the old Jefferson Hotel and the tops of the other buildings on the street, wondering what had gone on in the space I was in.

Turns out, I work in one of the best places to find out that kind of information. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is ready for a good old walk? And a little local history?

by Candice Smith on April 10th, 2018

And I do mean a good old walk!

On November 5, 1881, Anton Stein woke up, had coffee in the guest house he was at on Dubuque St., then went and murdered his wife. In between those disparate acts, he made a couple stops. On his walk, he would have gone past some buildings that are no longer there, while others we still see today; he visited businesses that are long gone, but their owners and functions left their mark on our downtown. He would have passed by the many people who were making their way in an Iowa City that was barely forty years old, hard-scrabble and burgeoning at the same time.

Using various local history resources that the Library has and provides access to, we’ve been able to recreate the short walk that Anton Stein took. We’ve also filled in the story of what happened to the people involved, and gained an idea of what our city looked like at that time. Want to learn more? Join us for an ICPL History Walk: The Lizzie Hess Murder, on Saturday, May 5. There are walks scheduled at 2:30 and 7:00 p.m., and registration is required. The walk should last about 1-1.5 hours, and is about one mile total. The 2:30 walk will meet inside the Library lobby, and the 7:00 right outside the lobby in the pedmall.

Register for the 2:30 walk.
Register for the 7:00 walk.

This program is part of ICPL’s Weber Days, a series of Local History programs and events honoring the memory and work of Iowa City Historian Irving B. Weber. If you have any questions, please contact Candice Smith at csmith@icpl.org or 319-887-6031

Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart…

by Candice Smith on February 6th, 2018
Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart… Cover Image

and you’re to blame. Yes, you.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, when we remember and give thanks for two early Christians in Rome, both named Valentine, both martyred for their beliefs. You don’t do that? Maybe you write saccharine poetry to the object of your unrequited love? No? Perhaps you buy a card and some candy, make reservations somewhere fancy or make a nice meal, and use the day to test the waters or reaffirm your love. And all of it–the cards, the candy, the poems, the napkins and candles, the ill-advised matching tattoos–is covered in little red hearts. Why?

It seems obvious, right? The heart is the physical seat of our emotions. It’s the tell-tale organ that gives lie to our calm composure, regardless of whether our heart is bursting with the excitement of love, or breaking under corrected expectations. The heart soars, it plummets, it races along, and it aches, all in time with our lives of love. The heart, as symbol of that love, is the OG emoji. How OG? Read the rest of this entry »

Talk About Something Pleasant, with B.Y.O.Book

by Candice Smith on January 17th, 2018
Talk About Something Pleasant, with B.Y.O.Book Cover Image

Like books? Like bars? Like good food and drink, and lively conversation? Then you might want to join us at our next BYOBook meet-up! We’re meeting on Tuesday, February 6, at Basta Pizzeria Ristorante, starting at 6:30 p.m.

We will be discussing Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which was one of the New York Times Book Review’s top ten books of 2014. In it, Chast recounts the time spent caring for her ailing, elderly parents, and the NYT describes it as “a beautiful book, deeply felt…about what it feels like to love and care for a mother who has never loved you back…and achingly wistful about a gentle father who could never break free of his domineering wife and ride to his daughter’s rescue.” If that doesn’t convince you (and it might not, I know), the reviewer goes on to say that it “veers between being laugh-out-loud funny and so devastating I had to take periodic timeouts.”

Interested? We have multiple copies, both in our circulating collection and in our ebook collection, and more copies at the Info Desk on the second floor of the Library (stop in or call 319-356-5200 to check availability). You can register for the event in our calendar. If you can’t make it to this one, stay tuned…We’ve got Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In the End on deck for March.

Let us now give thanks, and eat.

by Candice Smith on November 10th, 2017

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914), Pilgrim Hall Museum

I love finding out what is behind our holidays and traditions–why do we put a tree in the house? why the painted eggs? why did he put ashes on my forehead?–but Thanksgiving is one of those that I hadn’t given much thought to. According to Bruce Forbes and his excellent America’s Favorite Holidays, the holiday we celebrate today is pretty straightforward and connected to events that happened in our country’s past, although not in the way I had imagined.

We can thank the Puritans for getting us started with the holiday. Much of the reason they wanted to leave England was to have their religion the way they wanted it, and one of the things they wanted was fewer holidays. The Church used to be pretty big on them, with lots of days to recognize saints, have feasts, practice penitence–well over 100 days per year for a long time, including Sundays–and all of this time off meant less work, less pay, more goofing off. Puritans felt that Sundays should be used for worship and other religious acts, and aside from that there should only be a few days a year for either giving thanks and feasting (when good things happened) or for fasting and penitence (when not-so-good things happened). These days were most often proclaimed by religious authorities, and started to be somewhat common, although only when warranted. However, as the population of the colonies grew, the desire for the traditional harvest festival did as well, and even the Puritans were swayed by that. Read the rest of this entry »

Murderous reads for the season

by Candice Smith on October 4th, 2017
Murderous reads for the season Cover Image

When I was a child, I used to love watching scary movies with my dad. He had this great La-Z-Boy chair that the two of us could fit in, and on weekends we would rent a movie or two (VHS, mind you), make popcorn, and terrify ourselves silly. Well, I was terrified (hence, two people in one chair), but I don’t think he was. We watched all the biggies from the day: Halloween, Carrie, The Shining, Friday the 13th, Alien (I made him take me to that in the theatre, I was like 6, what was he thinking?), The Omen, The Exoricst, The Amityville Horror…the list goes on. I loved it, letting myself be scared just as much as I wanted to, but being safe and able to cover my eyes whenever I needed to. As I got older, I didn’t really enjoy being scared as much (real world too scary, maybe?), and I stopped watching horror movies for the most part. I still enjoy a good mystery and have a certain predilection for murder stories, so in honor of the upcoming Halloween season (who doesn’t like a bit of scare for Halloween?), I’ve rounded up some new books about murder. They are all nonfiction, which makes them all the more scary. Read the rest of this entry »

A Historical House and a Holy Hooligan

by Candice Smith on August 31st, 2017

sanxay2The Press Citizen recently had an article about Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s plans to relocate a historical home on their property, before selling said property to the UI. That house was at one time owned by Theodore Sanxay, one of Iowa City’s early citizens and business owners. He was also one of the founding members of the First Presbyterian Church, and you can find his name on the Church’s original 1847 Constitution, as well as two letters written by him, on the Library’s Digital History website. Those two letters tell a small part of a very interesting story: the beginnings of the First Presbyterian Church, and the Reverend Michael Hummer. The letters were written to Rev. Hummer while he was out east raising money for the new church that was being built, and they discuss various details related to the ongoing construction and various costs, but also relate gratifying little bits of information and news: “Mr. Trowbridge has married the widow Willis!” and “I am commencing business here once more…My father wanted me to try business in some other place as he thought I had made a perfect failure here.” Reverend Hummer eventually returned to his flock, and the Church was completed in 1850. Before that, though, things got a little weird. Read the rest of this entry »

Upcoming B.Y.O.Book events

by Candice Smith on July 28th, 2017

37380B.Y.O.Book, the Library’s books-in-bars book club, has some new events coming up! Grab a book, then pull up a chair to discuss it with us, while enjoying some food and drink at a great, local restaurant. Find more information and register for events by clicking on the links below.

August 15, at The Mill, 6 p.m., we’ll talk about Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

September 19, at Basta Pizzeria Ristorante, 6 p.m., we’ll talk about Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend

October 24, at Share Wine Bistro & Small Plate Lounge, 6 p.m., we’ll talk about Jeff Speck’s Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

A limited number of each title will be available at the Info Desk on the 2nd floor of the Iowa City Public Library for checkout; there are also copies in the Library’s print, audio, and digital collections. Please call the Info Desk at 356-5200 for more information, or email candice-smith@icpl.org

Pox in the park

by Candice Smith on May 26th, 2017

pesthouseThere are many reasons to take some time and visit Hickory Hill Park: have a picnic in the shelter at the Bloomington St. entrance, take a leisurely stroll and see some native wildflowers, go for a run and get a good workout on the hill up to Pappy Dickens’ Preserve, or go and have a nice, quiet sit at one of the many benches that have been installed recently. But hey, maybe you prefer a little disease and/or history when you’re in the park? If so, then I’ve got a walk for you…we’re going to visit the pest house in Hickory Hill Park!

Pest houses were used for a number of years to provide quarantine of patients who were infected with communicable diseases such as small pox and tuberculosis; this was the solution during a time when many hospitals did not have isolation wards and vaccinations had not been implemented to such a degree that the disease was wiped out. It may seem incredibly antiquated, but even Iowa City had a number of pest houses during the years of 1881-1920s; the one in Hickory Hill was the last. While there is very little to see there, we will be able to fill in the picture a bit with information from old Press Citizen articles and a few pictures from Margaret Beck, Assistant Professor in the UI Anthropology Department, who did a mapping project of the site in 2011. If you can’t make the walk with us, but are interested in learning more, stop by the Info Desk at the Library to use our databases, microfilm, and other historical resources.