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The James Gang kicks off April with a logo design contest

Posted by Genevieve Trainor | Mar 31, 2017 | Community/News

Iowa City’s non-profit incubator the James Gang is engaging in some re-branding this spring, and it all kicks off with a logo design contest running the month of April.

“People in Iowa City might recognize The James Gang by name, but they’re less likely to know who we are or what we do,” board member Luke Benson wrote in an email. “In an effort to become more active in the community and encourage other entrepreneurs to pursue their passions and become a James Gang endeavor, we are re-branding ourselves and taking active steps to engage more with the community.”

Englert Theatre’s Katie Roche presents on fundraising at the first James Gang public meeting, a new initiative that kicked off this winter. — photo courtesy of the James Gang

What they do is provide support to hopeful non-profit enterprises. Benson became involved with the group when he pitched his own idea, the Iowa Music Project, three years ago. He recounts how partnering with the James Gang allowed him to speed up and simplify the process of getting his project off the ground.

“I was also able to apply for and get awarded an Iowa Arts Grant despite the fact that at the time, IMP had really not done anything to indicate that we were capable of managing and implementing large scale projects,” he wrote. Because of the cache wielded by the James Gang, doors opened for him a bit more easily.

The James Gang has 13 such projects, or “endeavors,” as they’re called, currently under their umbrella. Many organizations in the community have started as James Gang endeavors, gotten bigger and moved forward, such as the upcoming Mission Creek Festival, which kicks off on Tuesday. The James Gang describes its endeavors as “partnership[s] between creative individuals and the community that help people get their creativity out there and foster community in the process.”

Pitching an endeavor is as easy as filling out a form on the group’s website or attending the first of their newly planned “pitch parties,” which will be held on May 27 at 3 p.m. at the new RADinc. (123 East Washington St, Iowa City). The group will accept three new endeavors each year (a change from their previous more free-form process). Pitches are expected to be 10-15 minutes long, and accompanied by a power point presentation including contribution to the community, past events (or event ideas for the future) and an outline of how their mission dovetails with the James Gang’s.

The Antelope Lending Library is one of the James Gang’s current endeavors. — photo courtesy of the James Gang

The James Gang was founded in 2002, and it takes its name from William James, often considered the father of American psychology and closely associated with pragmatism. “From the James Gang perspective,” wrote Benson, “this translates into, ‘Instead of just thinking and talking about something, you should get out and do it.'”

The upcoming logo contest is grounded in that same drive for action and community engagement that the James Gang seeks in each of its endeavors. “Our organizational mission is grounded in community building and supporting local artists and passionate people in generating ideas and putting those ideas in action,” Benson wrote. “The end goal is not only to walk away with a cool new look that better reflects our mission, but to also have engaged people in the community in a creative, actionable way.”

In fact, Ideas in Action is the newly-minted tagline for the organization, and where Benson hopes contest entries will focus their energy. “Whatever graphic best encapsulates turning passion into projects is what we’re looking for,” he wrote.

The logo contest runs from April 1-30. The winning submission will receive an award of $250. Enter the contest by emailing your design to All file types are accepted. Explanatory information is welcome, but not required.

About The Author

Genevieve Trainor

Genevieve Trainor, Little Village's arts editor, feels that personal bios are a bitter distillation of her deep and abiding struggles between sincerity and sarcasm.


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