Ask UsCalendar Catalog

Art Purchase Prize 2016 - New Covers for Old Classics

This year’s contest has a theme! We’re looking for artists to envision and create new book covers for classic works of literature that are in the public domain. When titles enter the public domain, anyone can re-publish them, and the book covers are often dull, auto-generated designs. Some of the most influential and well-loved books are now cloaked in uninspired (and uninspiring) covers—here is your chance to use your imagination and artistic creativity to change that.

View Past Winners

Who May Enter

Artists over 18 who live, work, or exhibit in the Iowa City/Johnson county area are eligible. Library employees and their immediate family are not eligible.

How To Enter

Artists can submit two works. Initial submission should be digital representations of the original works. Images should be in .jpeg format with a minimum size of 1024 x 768 pixels and minimum resolution of 72 dpi. Entries can be emailed to: Entries should include artist’s name, address, phone number, and email, as well as:

  • Title
  • Medium
  • Size (unmatted and matted if appropriate)
  • Price

Criteria For Entry

The criteria for this year’s contest are primarily the same as in other years, except that the subject of your artwork should be a cover for classic book in the public domain. Any two dimensional or low-relief media are acceptable including: drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, collage, paper/fiber/textile, and mixed media. All work must be original.

Artworks should depict the cover of a book, with the title and author’s name displayed prominently. The cover aspect of the work should be vertically oriented. Finished artwork should be at least 12x12 and no larger than 34x34. Archival or museum-quality materials must be used for all aspects. Works should be unframed and suitable for covering with Plexiglas.


Artwork should be priced under $300.


Initial judging of digital images by the Library’s Art Advisory Committee will be on Tuesday, September 6. Finalists will be notified and asked to bring their works to the Library on Tuesday, September 13. Final judging will be on Wednesday, September 14. Artists can stop by on September 14 between 6:00-6:30 to learn the results, or they will be notified by phone or email.

Entries will be accepted beginning August 1. Deadline for submission is September 2.

This year’s contest and display of the winning pieces will coincide with the Library-hosted exhibit Recovering the Classics, during the Iowa City Book Festival. Recovering the Classics is a national campaign to give new book covers to classic works of literature that are in the public domain. The exhibit will feature 50 of the covers designed by artists for the national campaign, as well as an exhibit of covers created by members of the community.

If you have questions or need further information, please contact Candice Smith at 319.887.6031 or