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Cedar Rapids Public Library puts up unusual public art

The writing's on the window

Molly Rideout of Grinnell, co-director of Grin City Collective (top), and artist in residence Becky Garner install a short story by Rideout on the windows of the Cedar Rapids Public Library in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Coralville and North Liberty are also among the 12 Iowa libraries to feature installations. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Molly Rideout of Grinnell, co-director of Grin City Collective (top), and artist in residence Becky Garner install a short story by Rideout on the windows of the Cedar Rapids Public Library in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Coralville and North Liberty are also among the 12 Iowa libraries to feature installations. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa writer Molly Rideout saw something missing from public art.

Rideout, a co-director for Grin City Collective, an artist-in-residency organization, saw a lack of opportunities for displaying writing as public art.

To solve this, Rideout and Grin City Collective started an initiative to install writings in the windows of 12 Iowa libraries.

Cedar Rapids Public Library staff members read through multiple pieces from Rideout and chose a creative non-fiction story. The story, about Grin City Collective itself, was installed Wednesday on the library’s windows. It will remain up through the summer, but the end date has not been set. Dara Schmidt, the library’s director, said that would be determined based on community response.

The project began when Rideout began working with vinyl as a way to place text on windows. Grin City Collective decided to launch the project after a similar one was successful last year in Drake Community Library in Grinnell.

Public writings, including fiction and non-fiction pieces, were created by four authors and installed in 12 libraries. Most of the pieces were not yet published before the project, or even written specifically for each library or town.

The piece in the Cedar Rapids library is the biggest out of the 12 libraries chosen for the project. Rideout’s story is about 2,000 words of white text and takes up an estimated 250 square feet of window space at the front of the library.

Rideout’s story is set at Grin City Collective and discusses a unique dock, which doesn’t lead to water, on a farm and the culture that surrounds it. She said her story is funny, but with a “dark twist” at the end.

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“It’s also just very, very casual. You get a lot of short stories that are kind of pretentious and that makes them a little less accessible. And this one is about a bunch of people on a farm that sometimes maybe drink a little more than they should,” Rideout said.

Schmidt said Rideout’s piece was chosen because of the surprising and unexpected emotions it brought up. She said this mimics the experiences people feel while reading in the library. Because of this, staff members felt it was a good fit when Grin City Collective asked the library to participate.

“We want people to do more than just come and get books, but to really have experiences when they come to the library. So this is a perfect example of this kind of thing,” said Amber Mussman, the library’s public relations manager.

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