Is there a burning topic in your discipline or a topic that cuts across disciplines that we should bring to campus? Is there a format for the conversation that can energize an intellectual community around that topic? That might be the perfect topic for an Obermann Arts & Humanities Symposium!

Re-imagining topics for our times
The last two years have taught us both painful and promising lessons. We’ve learned that the ability to respond to enduring and emerging issues quickly, flexibly, and nimbly can be invaluable. We’ve reaffirmed our commitment to inclusive practices, the embrace of diverse voices, and the intention to keep equitable design at the center of our planning and programs. We’ve recognized that our colleagues from the arts brilliantly invigorate other disciplines when we work in collaboration.

As a result, we’re reimagining our longtime Humanities Symposium as an Arts & Humanities Symposium. We want to lighten the planning and organizational work for symposia directors so that they can focus on the inspiring work of connecting with one another, sharing scholarly and creative discoveries, and experimenting with creative, interactive approaches to artistic and humanistic research. We hope that streamlined planning will open space for imaginative cross-disciplinary symposia where the humanities can deeply connect with the arts, design, politics, the health sciences, environmental studies, technology, and more.

Encouraging creative formats
In addition to a compelling topic, we invite co-directors to propose national and international speakers who can offer richly diverse perspectives on the symposium theme. We also want to highlight the work of UI and local experts. Continuing in the tradition of past symposia, we welcome the opportunity to help applicants include the arts, community-facing programming, and the latest pedagogical approaches to the theme, as well.

Offering flexibility to meet varied needs and interests
To achieve these goals, we invite proposals for half- or whole-day programs featuring two to six invited speakers. We can dedicate up to $15,000 a year for this program. In addition to the financial award of up to $15,000, Director(s) will also receive significant staff support.

Learn about past Humanities Symposium topics.


Applications are due the last Wednesday in October each year.

The application deadline for the 2024–25 Arts & Humanities Symposium directorship was October 25, 2023.
The application deadline for the 2025–26 Arts & Humanities Symposium directorship is October 30, 2024 (5:00 p.m.).


  • Applications are welcome from any faculty member whose appointment requires significant research, including scholarship and work in the arts.
  • Director(s) must have a record of scholarship in the proposed area of the arts and humanities.
  • Director(s) must be on campus the semester the symposium occurs, as well as the semester when planning occurs.
  • If applying as a pair or trio, at least one Director should have tenure. If you are applying as the sole Director, you must have tenure.
  • Departments may propose a symposium in collaboration with the Center.
  • Faculty may also apply in collaboration with archives, museums, and other cultural organizations with a point person from that organized named.
  • Faculty members who have received this award in the last 4 years are ineligible.


  • A topic that promises to engage artists and scholars on campus and beyond.
  • Clear purpose for the event—What will it help to accomplish? The objectives and outcomes could include featuring an archive or cultural resource on campus, highlighting an intellectual area of strength on campus, drawing attention to an emerging field or practice or inter-discipline, connecting Iowa artists and scholars with national and international experts, laying the groundwork for a collaboration or research team or publication, and more.
  • Please tell us if this event addresses a difficult or intractable issue and how it might help to understand or address it.
  • Reflections on why this is an excellent time and place to host the event.
  • Inspiring speakers or performers you hope to include.
  • Possible format, e.g., panels, performances, workshops.
  • Confidence that the event can be planned in 6 months to a year.
  • Faculty organizer(s) who are enthusiastic about working with the Obermann Center staff and others to bring the plans to fruition.
  • A meaningful draft budget that corresponds with the applicant’s objectives for the event.

Application Materials & Submission Process

Please compile the following materials into a single PDF and e-mail it to obermann-center@uiowa.edu

  • Cover sheet. Please download and complete this cover sheet (a fillable PDF). E-mail us at obermann-center@uiowa.edu if you have trouble with the download.
  • Letter of introduction regarding your symposium topic that speaks to the criteria above. Be sure to include—
    • The significance of the topic.
    • Its appeal to artists and/or scholars in a particular field or fields.
    • The goals for the event.
    • The potential for sustained impact through publication or any other means of sharing knowledge beyond the immediate event.
    • Two-six speakers you’d hope to invite and how each would develop the topic.
    • Your preferred timeline for this event.
    • The amount you are seeking for this event, with a maximum of $15,000.
    • Ideas for engaging with the larger campus and/or local community.
  • CV for each applying director. At least one director should be a senior faculty member.