Community

More public art coming to downtown Iowa City this year

#x201c;The Return,#x201d; a mural by Chris Vance, is seen in downtown Iowa City in June 2019. The Iowa City Downtown Dis
“The Return,” a mural by Chris Vance, is seen in downtown Iowa City in June 2019. The Iowa City Downtown District plans to create more public art for the downtown area this year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — More public art — including a large participatory project — will be coming to downtown Iowa City this year.

“We’re doing a participatory communitywide project called Flags for Iowa City,” said Thomas Agran, director of public art for the Iowa City Downtown District.

With the Flags for Iowa City project, the downtown district is partnering with Peter Haakon Thompson, a Minneapolis-based artist whose works involve participation, interaction and starting conversations. With this project, Iowa City residents will be invited to make flags showcasing the things they value, Agran said. Those flags will be displayed like a canopy over Black Hawk Mini Park.

“They’ll lend a human touch to the Ped Mall,” Agran said. “It’ll be nice to have that aspect here.”

Agran said he hopes to have as many as a thousand flags created for the installation, which should debut close to the 2020 Downtown Block Party on June 27. Workshops will be hosted this spring to help interested residents participate in flag-making. Agran said they’ll also be assembling a packet of materials for people who cannot make it to the workshops so they can still make a flag.

In addition to the flag installation, this year also will see the return of the downtown district’s BenchMarks program. Started in 2012, the BenchMarks project sees local artists treat Pedestrian Mall benches like blank canvasses and paint original works of art on them. Picnic tables in Black Hawk Mini Park will be painted by an artist and the downtown district also will likely partner with other organizations to do projection-based art installations, Agran said.

And, as with past years, more murals are scheduled to go up in downtown Iowa City. Agran said he doesn’t know exactly how many murals will be painted this year, but he’s counting on at least four. One of those will be a mural in the pedestrian corridor that connects the Pedestrian Mall with South Dubuque Street. Other planned murals include the side of Basta and the rear wall of the former Blue Moose, which will reopen this year as Elray’s Live and Dive.

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Agran said the public art efforts not only serve to transform unsightly parts of downtown, but go a long way to show that Iowa City values artists.

“It’s really important to value their contributions, which means not just valuing them conceptually, but valuing them in terms of paying them,” he said.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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