John Engelbrecht Visits the School of the Alternative

If you’ve hung around Iowa City for more than a few hours, you’ve probably at least heard-tell of John Engelbrecht. He’s a man known for many things, not the least of which is running the greatest little art hub in town. Say “hi,” John!

john engelbrecht

Well, anyway, something you may not know about John, is that he was out of town recently doing something super cool. See, there’s this place called School of the Alternative in Black Mountain, North Carolina (at Blue Ridge Assembly– the historic campus of the city). They call themselves "an experiment in education and community," and their aim is to provide a passion-driven model of education that encourages greater possibilities for thought, creation and collective action. Instead of a traditional classroom environment, their campus supports a collectively-built, self-directed approach to learning, which gives opportunity for all participants to learn and teach. Sounds incredible, right?

So every year, they invite artists, writers, and arts organizers of all types to come together to create a community of higher education outside the system of traditional academia. It’s a three-week program that, this year, lasted from May 11th-30th, and our own John Engelbrecht was able to join the school as a faculty member for their second week! He co-taught a (liquid) course with David Dunlap called “You Don’t Need Permission, You Just Show Up,” where they shared various elements of their process related to daily art practice and “living a life in art.” Here are some photos from the class:

You Don't Need Permission Class
You Don't Need Permission Class 2
Don't Need Permission Class 3
Don't Permission 4

If you were around in April for Iowa City’s Dazzle Crawl, you probably witnessed the mass phenomena of #theoverdot, which John brought to the School of the Alternative. Looks like they enjoyed it as much as we did.


John’s experience with School of the Alternative was, in fact, so thrilling that he wants to share more about it, with anyone who may be interested in applying for the school next year, or perhaps working toward a similar model here in Iowa City! You can reach John via email at:, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram @theestrawman (that’s “thee” not “the” strawman) to keep up with him on the reg!


Iowa City Press Co-op's faithful members are always doing something creative. Stay tuned to our blog to see which member will be highlighted next!