Arts & Culture

African American Museum of Iowa refreshes website, unveils new logo

The new logo of the African American Museum of Iowa.
The new logo of the African American Museum of Iowa.

CEDAR RAPIDS — After almost 30 years, the African American Museum of Iowa has a new logo.

“We really just wanted to do something that represented what we’re all about, which is preserving African American history and culture and to also broaden our visibility and reach to our audiences,” said museum Executive Director LaNisha Cassell.

The museum got a grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to enhance visitor experiences, which will include new signage and printed materials, among other things. It also unveiled a revamped website last week with assistance from Operation Overnight, a project by Geonetric to help nonprofits with their websites. Cassell said the museum wanted the new logo to be part of both efforts.

The museum worked with African American Graphic Designers, a Black designers collective, to create the logo, which incorporates different colored lines in a circle.

Cassell said to land on the final image, the museum conducted surveys and convened a focus group of African American community members from across the state. There were initially 17 logos that were narrowed down to four for the community survey. Cassell said the public gave a lot of feedback, which the museum staff took into account.

“We loved the idea of using some of the colors from our previous logo, which incorporates colors from Pan-African flag: red, green and black. And we added purple and orange, which we’ve been using in our color palette lately. We used the purple on the MLK flags, for example.”

The flags were on the Dr. Martin Luther King Bridge at 12th Ave. SE before many of them blew down during the Aug. 10 derecho.


Senior designer Dave McClinton, who lives in Austin, Texas, said he was inspired by a variety of elements, including the idea of the North Star, Iowa’s rolling hills and farm fields, traditional African American quilts and interlocking hands.

“It needed to reflect a very specific culture but not be specifically African, because it’s not an African museum, it’s an African American museum,” he said. “It’s filled with metaphors. I loved the idea that the circle could also be conceived as a metaphor of different hands in a circle, it’s like this multicultural community coming together, because there’s no other way to move forward unless every corner has their hand in.”

Cassell said the museum is looking at future changes as work continues on a flood wall, which will pass through the parking lot and will impact the building in ways that aren’t yet finalized, but may include changes to the exterior and entrance and exit areas of the building.

The museum is also planning digital tour and exhibit experiences as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The museum remains open for tours, with the “Unwavering: 21st Century Activism” exhibit on display through August 2021. Staff are working on plans for next fall’s exhibit, which will explore redlining, a discriminatory zoning practice that kept neighborhoods segregated, including in Cedar Rapids and other Iowa towns.

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