AMES, Iowa — Cameron Gray is an artist living in Ames who is behind the Black’d Out Books project. A mix between an art installation and a library, Black’d Out Books aims to provide books written by Black authors for free to create safe spaces for the Black community.

Gray moved to Iowa from Alabama and noticed a lack of Black community. Gray said that Black’d Out Books can offer a space for black voices to be heard.

“When I would go places, there’s certain places bars here in Ames that if I go I always feel like there’s eyes on me or people watching me or always watching what I do or how I move through the world. That’s kind of what, another reason that prompted me to start Black’d Out Books and the Buxton Initiative which is this notion of like how can I start to create these spaces that not only are for me but for other Black people because I know I’m not the only other person who feels this way,” Gray said, “So how do we start to actually create these safe spaces for Black voices to be heard or be considered and build community.”

Gray has been working with the city of Ames to build his first library at Franklin Park. But Gray found out there were more steps that needed to be taken before construction could begin.

“I have to remind myself that some of the best works that have ever happened in art history took a long time to get them to where they are,” Gray said, “So the city stuff has been really eye-opening and truly a beautiful experience for me personally because I know what I want Black’d Out Books to be.”

Gray expects to break ground in Franklin Park this year. He also has plans to expand the project to Des Moines.

To learn more about Black’d Out Books or how you can support the project visit Gray’s website.