The founder of the Black Liberation Space in Iowa City watched as creatives gathered, learned together and found the confidence to pursue their careers in one shared space.

But a lack of “hope” that they could make it as an artist troubled Andre Wright, considering Iowa City’s “robust artist community,” he told the Press-Citizen.

Wright is the co-creator of Humanize My Hoodie and his recent purchase of the former Varsity Cleaners space will lend itself to the continuation of the ongoing work he is doing. That includes entrepreneurship and career opportunities for creatives locally, through his Wright House of Fashion institution.

But he doesn’t want to be the only organization doing that work. He’d like to see the city and Johnson County focus on supporting individuals, not organizations, for the purpose of having deeper conversations about how this arts community can evolve.

“I want them to say (that) we claim ourselves to be ‘the small city for the arts,’ but I want them to invest in that small city, too,” he said.

Andre Wright speaks about his plans for the former Varsity Cleaners, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, at 910 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City, Iowa.

As Iowa City works to become the self-proclaimed “Greatest Small City for the Arts,” it must face challenges for visual artists in pursuit of their craft. Still, these creatives find community, mentorship and opportunities to support their work.

In a three-part series, the Press-Citizen is exploring the visual artists that live and work here; the challenges some face in pursuit of their creative work; and what can be done to better support visual artists in Iowa City.

By Indana