Artists at SUI presents the ‘Amplified Rainbow’ exhibit at Public Space One’s Close House

On Friday, Sept. 9, the Amplified Rainbow exhibit presented by ‘Artists at SUI’ opened in Public Space One’s Close House, showcasing local talent all in one place.


Jordan Tovar

Grace Locke Ward straightens a piece by the Artists at SUI Program at Public Space One.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

Spanning two large rooms lit with glittering chandeliers in the Public Space One Close House, the Amplified Rainbow exhibit hangs in a vibrant display. Artwork of various mediums — including paintings, sculptures, and feltwork — are showcased in the gallery, with every piece a unique expression of personality. 

The artists featured in the exhibit produced their work with the help of Systems Unlimited, Inc., which serves cities in eastern Iowa to provide living and employment opportunities for primarily adults with disabilities and mental health needs. The exhibit will run until Sept. 16. 

Now more than 50 years old, Systems Unlimited was started by a group of parents seeking other options besides institutions for their children. 

Artists at SUI is a program started in 2018 to support the artistic creativity of adults with disabilities. Grace Locke Ward, the Systems Unlimited art program manager, explained how it began with their “Day Program,” which serves people with many kinds of disabilities. 

“In our Day Program we had really amazing artists already, and they were just participating in a lot of different things, but we didn’t have anything seriously focused on art,” Locke Ward said.

The Artists at SUI program provides a studio to the 20 current artists, and any adaptive equipment they need. 

One of the artists, Gloria Gomez, was the catalyst for the Artists at SUI program through her passion for art at Systems Unlimited Day Program. Her pieces experiment with mediums, as is the case with one painting that she translated into punch needle embroidery using equipment she normally would not have had access to. 

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“I’m noticing that I’m starting to become really excited by seeing how other people go about creating things,” said Bre Senior, an employee at the art studio. Her favorite part of her job is being able to recognize the way each artist compiles their work. 

“Everybody has a style, and it’s a very nice piece of the human experience,” Senior said. 

Public Space One (PS1) is the art center that provided the space for the Amplified Rainbow Exhibit, and often supplies the arts community of Iowa City with spaces to present and innovate art; it has worked closely with Systems Unlimited on past projects. 

At PS1’s Close House on South Gilbert Street attendants can drift from room to room and observe multiple pieces within one artist’s section. Kalmia Strong, Public Space One (PS1) program director, said the organization is happy to provide a space and opportunity for Systems Unlimited’s artists.

 “The folks who work there [Systems Unlimited] are just wonderful, and the folks who make art there are also wonderful,” Strong said. “We’re just happy to be able to provide a platform where they have a space where they can invite people in to see a lot of the work at once in person.”

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