Public Space One receives USA Today grant to bring artists of color to Iowa City

“A Community Thrives” grant was awarded to Public Space One, an Iowa City arts organization, for its Center for Afrofuturist Studies Center.


Matt Sindt

Executive Director of Public Space One John Engelbrecht poses for a photo in front of the mural outside of Public Space One North Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

Public Space One in Iowa City received a grant through the USA TODAY Network that will boost new artist diversity in the community.

The $2,500 grant will support the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, which brings artists of color — specifically Black artists — to Iowa City on a fully-funded residency.

The grant will help fund the program residents’ stipends, lodging and travel, and general support. The center has hosted around 20 resident artists since 2015.

Public Space One has been bringing artist resources to Iowa City since 2002 by hosting workshops and exhibitions for people who are curious about art, Public Space One Executive Director John Engelbrecht said.

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“We have studios that we rent out to local artists and also other kinds of nonprofit organizations that are built on community building initiatives,” Engelbrecht said. “This is a program that brings artists of color to Iowa to live or to visit and to make work while they’re here. It’s more unique here than it might be in other places, and thus I think it has a little bit more potential for opening doors and opening eyes,” he said.

In addition to the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, Public Space One also houses the Oracles of Iowa City.

The Oracles of Iowa City is a mural project that receives funding from the City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President and Research. The project is ran by the Center for Afrofuturist studies and Public Space One.

Engelbrecht said open-call applications are received for the center, and it is in the process of approving more residents.

“We have a couple that are coming out this year, and then we’re getting ready to choose some more artists to work with,” Engelbrecht said. “I think we had 36 applications, and we have to go through those and see who we can support and how we can get them here in Iowa City to have time for.”

The grant comes from the “A Community Thrives” program, which is a grant program from the USA TODAY Network and Gannett Foundation, according to the Gannett Foundation website.

“It was a pretty simple, a way less complicated sort of crowdfunding, less complicated than a Kickstarter — that sort of thing,” Engelbrecht said. “This particular grant, they wanted to support initiatives that had community backing, and the way that they prove that is through that kind of crowd-sourced fundraising.”

Dellyssa Edinboro, Center for Afrofuturist Studies education program coordinator, said grant opportunities give more exposure to artists in Iowa City and bring more diversity.

“I think it allows people to see that there’s points of connection that could be made between their creative work and this place in the Midwest, which a lot of people see as predominantly white because that is the demographic,” Edinboro said.

The Center for Afrofuturist Studies also uses art to talk about important — and sometimes challenging — topics, she said.

“Using art as a point so that discussions about racial justice can occur, so discussions about economic racial inequalities can occur, I think that’s one thing that’s also very much significant about it,” Edinboro said.