Q: What is The James Gang?
A: Founded in 2002, the James Gang is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit grassroots community building organization based in Iowa City, Iowa. The organization is committed to fostering interdisciplinary community development through helping people realize and share their own creative ideas, expressions, and ambitions.
The organization operates on the idea that by helping creative individuals from disciplines as diverse as the arts, sciences, humanities, politics, media, and business, it can create projects and institutions that foster community interaction while helping these individuals find resources to make their ideas a reality.
The James Gang's primary method to pursue its mission is to create community projects (we call endeavors) designed to be frameworks to help individuals pursue their own creativity.
Q: I've never heard of The James Gang, have I ever heard of your work?
A: Most people know of our work not knowing that these projects are products of The James Gang. The James Gang has carried out many projects and activities through the community since its founding, but is most often known for its endeavors including The 10,000 Hours Show (now adopted by the United Way), The Saturday Night Free Movie Series(now adopted by Summer of the Arts), The Coaster Project, UNstaged, The Composing Charity Series, Mission Creek, Public Space One, and The cFree Wireless Project, among others.
Q: What is an endeavor?
A: "Endeavor" is the fancy word that we use for our projects. Our endeavors are designed to connect creativity and service to the community in innovative and resourceful ways. The endeavors are designed to be "frameworks." (see next question)
Q: What do you mean "framework?"
A: The dictionary definition of a "framework" is: "A structure for supporting or enclosing something else, especially a skeletal support used as the basis for something being constructed." We use framework in the same sense to mean that our endeavors don't necessarily create the primary thing they are about, but they are a structure that allows others to "create" it themselves. Lost? An example...The Composing Charity Series is about music, art, film, theatre, etc. It does not create these things in itself, but it enables others to create and showcase their talents by giving them a structure (venue) to showcase their talents while raising funds for a local nonprofit. Another example: The 10,000 Hours Show is about volunteering in the community. It does not do the volunteering for you, it is a structure (organization) that helps connect those with a desire to volunteer with volunteering opportunities. Once the structure makes the connection, the volunteering happens on its own.
Q: You keep saying "creative ideas." What does that mean?
A: Creativity is a hard thing to define. We'll turn to the MacArthur Foundation for a great definition:
"Creativity, like humor, can get lost in definition, not because it cannot be described, but because it can be expressed in limitless variations...we have found it useful to regard creativity as the expression of human endeavor as individuals actively make or find something new, or connect the seemingly unconnected in significant ways."
The James Gang also holds a very broad definition of creativity including the traditional areas of the arts, music, theater, and more, but our definition of creativity includes areas as diverse as technology, the humanities, community activism, business, and more. Like the McArthur Foundation, we find creativity in anything that a person is excited and passionate about and using to make new connections.
Some examples of creative ideas: a person might want to put on a play, hold a community meeting, or start a community food festival---but they might not know how. Everyone has these types of ideas, but they often don't even know where to begin to make them happen. The James Gang's mission is to connect people to resources, resources to people, and everything in between to make individual's creative ideas a reality while serving the community.
Q: What's with the name?
A: The name "The James Gang" is a reference to the philosopher William James, considered to be the father of American Psychology. James developed the theory of Pragmatism, and for our purposes we define this as meaning, "Instead of just thinking and talking about something, you should get out and do it." The James Gang's tagline is "Go Public." We exist to help people take their ideas, interests, passions, etc. and put them out there (go public). Instead of sitting around saying, "We should volunteer in the community" or "We should perform a play," we work to provides projects and resources that allow people to make those thoughts a reality.
Q: Who is the James Gang?
A: The James Gang is comprised of individuals from all walks of life from high school students to working professionals in the community. Anyone who works on any of our numerous endeavors or even just participates is a member of The James Gang. To see our most recently updated list of those involved in our endeavors, visit our members page.
Q: How do you become a member of The James Gang?
A: The James Gang is a community supported nonprofit organization, by the community for the community. We are always seeking new community members and community projects to join our already existing organization and projects. There are a variety of ways to become a member, visit our Get Involved section to learn more.