Arts Iowa City members attending Venture School

By:  Shaina Tromp

Inspired by their recent participation in the University of Iowa Venture School Program, which helps entrepreneurs translate ideas into businesses, members of the Arts Iowa City board are hoping to create a community-based arts center.  Venture School is provided to entrepreneurs by the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.   

Called The ArtiFactory, the center would provide space to teach and showcase the community’s artwork.  The Arts Iowa City board members are looking at offering classroom studios for ceramics, metalsmithing, jewelry, fiber, sculpture and painting, as well as exhibition galleries, a dance practice studio, a coffee shop, a sales shop, an artist commons and artist studios.  However, the board is still performing customer discovery to find out exactly what the community wants and needs them to offer.    

The board would like to renovate a space in the downtown Iowa City area like a church or government building to help preserve historical aspects of Iowa City when creating The ArtiFactory arts center, but are also considering building a new space if they need to.  

Partnering on the project are Arts Iowa City Board and Committee Members Patricia Knox, Amy Weber, Pete Kollasch and Louise Rauh, Dan Cummins, Yasmine Rezai, John Shaw, Chucho Loria, Nick Lindsley, Jan Palmer, Beppie Weiss and Susan McGuire. Arts Iowa City is Iowa City’s oldest non-profit art organization that strives to make the arts flourish through art exhibitions, promotions and more.   

 “Arts Iowa City has not had a permanent home where we can offer a full range of instruction in art and fine crafts, house dedicated studios in specific media, and hire a full-time executive director and support staff,” said Knox, president of Arts Iowa City.  “We are inviting other area arts organizations and donors to collaborate and cooperate with us.”  

Venture School is a six-week training program designed to accelerate the startup process.  This program helped the Arts Iowa City board members gain valuable knowledge about the work involved in bringing their arts center to reality. 

  “Attending Venture School has been a pivotal moment for the board of Arts Iowa City and the support from the Venture School staff, instructors and mentors has been incredibly important,” Knox said.  “From day one, we learned it all starts with development through use of the Business Model Canvas.  Then we went right out into the community to begin customer discovery through one-on-one interviews. It happened that we were at a place in our strategic plan where we needed to test the feasibility of our idea before we could move ahead.  I had heard about Venture School at EntreFest this summer and the timing this fall was perfect for some of us to attend.”

Arts Iowa City board members will be working to raise funds for this project so they can purchase a location for the center in the downtown Iowa City area. They are six months into the 18 month strategic plan.  By Dec. 2015, the board aims to raise community awareness and start on the renovation or construction of The ArtiFactory art center.  

“On April 1, 2016, Arts Iowa City, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, will be 40 years old,” Knox said.  “My goal is to be celebrating that anniversary with the grand opening or if need be, the groundbreaking of Iowa City's own, permanent, staffed community arts center.”