Featured Member: Thomas Agran


NAME: Thomas Agran

MEMBER SINCE: October 2017

PROFESSION/VOCATION?: Artist and Director of Public Art for the Iowa City Downtown District

Q0.  TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:  I am a painter and a muralist, at times a teacher, always a cook and gardener. I went to school to study painting, and I certainly identify as a painter, but I’m always happy when I’m working with my hands, whatever the medium or the tools. I am a native Kentuckian, grew up in Ohio, went to school in Iowa and Indiana, and have lived in Iowa City since 2009. Other than my debut south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I’m pretty much Midwestern to the core.

Q1.  YOU x YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO PS1:  Outside of attending shows, I have only taken one class (intaglio) at PS1. I really missed out on printmaking in school, and I would love to get more involved at the ICPC. 

Q2.  THE FIRST IMPRESSION: To be honest, when I first came to Iowa City I wasn’t really sure about PS1 – what exactly it was about, where it was, who it was for, or whose taste it served. I’ve come to recognize it as a backbone of the art scene in Iowa City, populated and perpetuated by those artists in Iowa City who care deeply about community, accessibility of space and tools, and a building a welcoming and supportive environment for making and exhibiting art.

Q3.  THE BEST (AND WORST!?):  I had a great time at the intaglio class I took with Emily Jalinsky last year. It was a nice way to pick up some fledgling skills while getting to know the ICPC better. I have no interest in going back to school again, but it was nice to be in that kind of environment for a short course and hope to take more.

Q4.  WHY THE LOVE!?!?  Many in Iowa City lament the lack of a community arts center, and have worked for decades to try and make a physical space a reality. PS1 has grown within its means, on a solid and expanding foundation built of the support and investment of its guiding members. I really respect that. There wasn’t a 15 million dollar capital campaign, but instead 15 years of slow and steady work to grow in a sustainable way. I still think that the creative community in Iowa City deserves more (and more visible) space, and while through my role at the ICDD I am working toward those goals, it starts with investing in those groups who have been slowly and effectively building those resources on their own. Whether it’s an independent bookstore, a cooperative grocery, or your favorite restaurant, it’s important to support those things you want to see in your community. I am proud to support PS1 and the sincere, dedicated, and warm folks that I have come to be friends with over the years, and excited to watch the organization continue to evolve and grow.

Q5. PS1 x FUTURE: I feel like there are two major things missing in Iowa City right now in regards to the arts – some kind of non-profit run or municipally sponsored community art gallery with ground floor visibility, and affordable studio space. Iowa City is a community stuffed with artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives, but it is also a place far more stuffed with students, and those market forces combined with a lack of industrial past in Iowa City have made it challenging if not impossible to find affordable studio space. Large community studio facilities are coming online in cities across the country, and Iowa City needs to get their act together and make that resource a reality in our own community. I would love to see a community driven, co-operative model for a large studio facility in Iowa City, with a satellite gallery space in the heart of downtown. If this happens, it’s hard to imagine PS1 won’t have played a large part. Join me?

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