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Overland Park’s InterUrban ArtHouse aims to build a more vibrant community through art

A social activist, a graphic designer and a fire eater walk into a post office.

What happens next is no joke: instead Nicole Emanuel, Angi Hejduk, and Wolfe Brack inspire a community of artists with their commitment, passion and expertise. They are the heart and the soul of Overland Park’s InterUrban ArtHouse.

InterUrban ArtHouse was founded in 2011 by Emanuel, who is also the artistic director. It operates in a 10,000-square-foot space in the Overland Park post office building at 8001 Newton St. The nonprofit is part art gallery, part business incubator, part classroom, and home to more than two dozen studio artists from both sides of the state line.

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The InterUrban ArtHouse has a holistic approach to supporting and advancing the artists. Its program catalog includes ArtMatters, which provides education and outreach for artists at all skill levels; ArtWorks, which teaches the business of art and entrepreneurship; ArtsConnect, which places art at the center of community engagement; ArtSmart, which focuses on outreach to public schools; and ArtHeals, which supports mental health through artistic outlets.

Emanuel’s vision for InterUrban ArtHouse’s future goes far beyond those five pillars.

“This is phase one,” she says. “I want to see us create an infrastructure for foundational growth. We need to find stability in funding that keeps artists grounded in their entrepreneurial and creative journeys.”

“The arts are an enormous part of the economy,” she adds. “What we learned is that we have to be able to quantify (art’s) contributions to the economy and economic development to find funding and support at various levels of government.”

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She found early support from Peter Jasso, director of the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.

“The arts impact all qualities of a community,” Jasso says. “They’re social, economic, health, education drivers... arts are not just an effort in beautification, nor are they merely a profit and loss statement. They are cultural resources that impact us all.”

Jasso credits Emanuel and InterUrban ArtHouse with boosting both the revitalization of downtown Overland Park and the arts industry in Johnson County.

According to the InterUrban ArtHouse website, Johnson County currently supports 1,936 arts-related businesses that employ around 7,414 people, including 1,482 individual artists.

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Wolfe Brack, InterUrban ArtHouse’s operations manager, is the team’s experiential director and an interactive artist in his own right. He says downtown Overland Park’s Third Fridays event has helped draw crowds from “up the hill” to InterUrban ArtHouse’s gallery and events such as readings and music performances.

Emanuel, who graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, met Brack while he was working a day job at Barnes & Noble. In 2017, he answered a random call from Emanuel, who at the time was looking for (of course) a circus performer and event manager.

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Brack is a fire spinner with an eye for minute details and a passion for community engagement.

“I want (people) to experience and interact with art,” he says.

Angi Hejduk, InterUrban ArtHouse’s chief executive officer, is a self-employed graphic designer who contributes an entrepreneurial sensibility to the venture. She seamlessly glides between the art and business worlds — and tries to bring them together.

“I’m always looking for that solution,” she says. “I problem-solve on a piece of paper.”

Four years ago, Emanuel envisioned stepping away from the ArtHouse and handing the keys to Hejduk. Emanuel still hopes to some day focus her attention on personal projects — but for now, the trio is working together to promote public art and social causes in their neighborhood and beyond.

Causes they’re passionate about range from teenage suicide prevention, religious tolerance, affordable housing and celebrating diversity in the arts.

Emanuel says her long-term vision for InterUrban ArtHouse is a “steady anchor” — a hybrid between an artistic nonprofit and retail outlet that provides local artists the support, stability and community they need to thrive.

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Keep up with everything happening at InterUrban ArtHouse on their website and Facebook.

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