Monday, February 13, 2023

This spring, IISC's director Travis Kraus and Theatre Arts professor Loyce Arthur are co-teaching a class about creative placemaking. Their community partner is the Pheasant Ridge area of Iowa City. As part of the process to help envision the area's future, class leaders and IISC staff member Jennifer New were involved in planning sessions at the Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center.

Led by Rachel Rockwell, executive director of The Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, members of the community met to decide whether to form a neighborhood association and then create a name and mission for it. The IISC members did not vote but provided ideas and support for the process.

Based on the area's strengths and the residents' intentions for its future, they established this mission statement: "The Wonderful Westside Neighborhood will be a safe, peaceful, and desirable place to live, work, and play. We will work together to empower inherent leadership, improve economic and social well-being, strengthen sense of belonging, and make connections with resources as we elevate, celebrate, and integrate the diverse cultures and voices of our residents." 

The neighborhood is home to a large population of immigrants, with many coming from Sudan. Attendees at the planning meetings were keene to share their cultural heritage with others in the city, and to find ways to bring younger and older generations together. 

This spring, the 17 students who are exploring how arts and culture contribute to community planning, community identity, equitable development and economic inclusion, will interview residents of the new Wonderful Westside Neighborhood. The oral histories will be used to amplify the strengths and rich creativity inherent to the area. 

Another key organizer of the meetings was Ayman Sharif, City of Iowa City Outreach & Engagement Specialist. Sharif received his Master's degree from the School of Planning and Public Affairs and is the founder of the Global Food Project. He notes that the City’s neighborhood association system provides residents with opportunities to engage, elevate their presence, partner on projects through PIN grant opportunities, and build connection with other public agencies and private businesses.