Uptown Artway catalyst for more ideas

Marion launches Winter Lights master plan

“Evoke” is seen Oct. 16, 2017, through “Prime Commonality: Marion, Iowa” which are both part of Uptown Artway in the Uptown Marion District. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
“Evoke” is seen Oct. 16, 2017, through “Prime Commonality: Marion, Iowa” which are both part of Uptown Artway in the Uptown Marion District. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)


MARION — Public art in the Uptown Marion District took a giant leap forward with the May 2017 opening of Uptown Artway, transforming the alley behind buildings in the 1000 block of Seventh Avenue.

Gleaming in the sun or lighted in a kaleidoscope of colors by night, the nine public art installations have become a popular calling card for leisurely strolls and patio dining.

“It’s doing exactly what we hoped it would do. People want to be around it,” said Jill Ackerman, president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce. “We’re creating this entertainment district.”

The aesthetic renovation is part of the city’s public art initiative, which coincided with the central corridor redevelopment plan.

“The consultant who did that (redevelopment) plan was talking to us about it being hard on companies and businesses when your roads are under construction,” Ackerman said. “You have to try to find other ways to get people still into those businesses. You can do that one way by creating attractions for them, but he said we also had a real opportunity with the alley, and that we should try to use those back entrances.”

The public art initiative proceeded, but didn’t end there.


Building on the momentum of the alley sculptures, a Winter Light and Display fundraiser is underway until March 1 to spruce up the city and highlight its vintage charm.

Launching the project is a lighted metal tree sculpture placed at Seventh Avenue and 11th Street.

Commissioned from artist Cara Briggs-Farmer of Synergy Metalworks in Marion, it’s made up of metal spheres that mirror the dozen or so spheres she created that were placed along Seventh Avenue a couple of years ago.


“It’s designed to be seasonal, but it doesn’t scream ‘Christmas,’” Ackerman said of the tree, which incorporates about 500 linear feet of stainless steel and carbon steel tubing and is lighted at dusk.

“It’s great, because it doesn’t have to stay in that location. Maybe we can get one bigger and one smaller, and group them in a roundabout or park,” Ackerman said.

The initial tree cost $3,600, paid through funds raised by the Chamber’s 2017 Leadership In Action class. The group is developing a master plan for holiday decorations and lighting to enhance the Uptown District, city parks and gateways.

“The class all agreed how they wanted to move forward to build this collection of winter decor to make Marion look beautiful and vibrant,” Ackerman said.

Projected to roll out in several phases over the next five to seven years, the lights, snowflake street banners and other decorations will be white, to give them winter staying power beyond the holiday season.

Phase 1 will outline the Depot in City Square Park, and string commercial lights vertically from the park’s treetops.

Phase 2 will add lights to the trees along Sixth and Seventh avenues, and Phase 3 will create a canopy of lights from the roof lines of the buildings leading into the Uptown Artway.

Financing will continue to come from subsequent Leadership classes, which typically raise $8,000 to $10,000 through donations and matching funds from the city.


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The Winter Lights master plan is further augmented by the public fundraising campaign, with donations accepted at www.marioncc.org/winter-lights-project.html or Marion Chamber Foundation, 1225 Sixth Ave., Suite 100, Marion, IA, 52302.

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com



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