Grow Black Owned: Educate, Donate and Support Now, through a new website designed to promote Iowa City Area Black-Owned Businesses

August 3, 2021 |

The University of Iowa School of Planning and Public Affairs, Department of Theatre Arts, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, along with the Iowa City Area Development Group have partnered to create a website designed to highlight and grow Black-owned businesses in Johnson County.

IOWA CITY, IA – A new online resource aimed at growing and promoting Black-owned businesses in the Iowa City launched this week.  The site, called a Story Map, includes a directory and map of Black-owned businesses in the areas, and highlights the entrepreneurial journeys of fourteen Black entrepreneurs and community leaders through personal stories, photos, and audio clips.

The Story Map can be found at :

The project aims to raise awareness in the community about existing businesses and organizations, while also driving economic growth and prosperity for Black business owners.  The project collaborators gathered insight from the stories to identify opportunities for new resources and initiatives.

The Story Map project is a collaboration featuring faculty and students from the University of Iowa’s School of Planning and Public Affairs and Department of Theatrical Arts.   Twenty students in a combined class completed work on this project during the spring 2021 semester with follow up from the faculty teaching the course (Loyce Arthur, Mark Bruckner, Charles Connerly, Travis Kraus) and Aja Witt, a UI Ph.D. student.  They have created a website designed to grow Black-owned businesses in the Iowa City area and inform the community on the stories, services and products offered by these businesses.

Theatre Arts Professor Loyce L. Arthur said, “Through a unique collaboration between University of Iowa faculty and students, Black business owners and entrepreneurs, and other community members, we explored how artists, public planners, and community partners can work together on strategies to advance economic inclusion and support Black entrepreneurs in the Iowa City area.  Gathering stories from local entrepreneurs and community advocates offered individual personal perspectives and insights necessary for us to shape our community-based project.  We identified the Story Map website as one way that we could, through the art of storytelling and with strong visual representations, contribute to a broader community effort to create more economic opportunities for BIPOC entrepreneurs.”

It is expected that in subsequent semesters, students will expand and update the interviews and directory to more fully capture the experience and richness of Black-owned businesses in the Iowa City area.  Professor Arthur adds:  “When we teach the course again in Spring 2022 we will expand the maps and our approaches to include more partners. This is a long-term project”

Kate Moreland, President of Iowa City Area Development Group also adds, “The cultural and ethnic diversity in Johnson County enriches our community, builds economic vitality, and uplifts our community as a whole. The Iowa City Area Development Group is proud to have been a part of such an important initiative to highlight the unique stories of our area’s Black-owned businesses and nonprofits. We look forward to doing our part to help uplift and support these entrepreneurs and organizations both now and in the future.”

The website is part of a broader public art and creative placemaking initiative that strives to respond, in part, to the social movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, calling for racial justice in the United States and across the world.  It is linked to the Oracles of Iowa City mural installation, currently underway, in downtown Iowa City that is a collaboration between the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, (CAS), at Public Space One, the City of Iowa City’s Public Art committee, and the University of Iowa.