Government

Cedar Rapids considers major investment in public art at DoubleTree complex

'Portrait of Iowa' would be seen from both inside and outside he building

In an artist rendering of John Fleming's #x201c;Portrait of Iowa,#x201d; a man observes the piece from a second-floor ba
In an artist rendering of John Fleming’s “Portrait of Iowa,” a man observes the piece from a second-floor balcony in the convention center attached to the DoubleTree Hotel in Cedar Rapids. (Submitted by John Fleming)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids officials are considering investing in a signature public art installation that would hang in a highly visible location in the foyer of the convention center attached to the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids.

“Portrait of Iowa,” a piece by John Fleming, a Seattle artist and architect, would be a collection of 300 photographs printed on 1-foot-by-1-foot acrylic sheets and suspended in the “lantern” space of the convention center, a glass enclosure that juts out.

“I really love the way the piece jelled and the way it is going to work in the city and convention center,” Fleming, 63, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

The City Council development committee on Wednesday endorsed what could be a six-figure project. The full council is set to vote on the contract, which is specified not to exceed $100,000, on Jan. 28.

Council member and committee chairwoman Ann Poe called it a “signature piece of public art” that will stand out during day and night.

“This is the type of art that shows our community is invested in itself,” Poe said. We are very excited.”

Installation is expected late this summer.

Assembled, the piece would be 34 feet tall and 10 feet-by-10 feet wide. It would float 11 feet overhead from the ground floor, and those on the second floor balcony could look up or down at the images.

During the day, shards of acrylic would have a prism effect, reflecting sunlight. At night, the installation would be illuminated with color-changing LED lights creating a visual impression visible inside or outside the building at First Avenue NE and Third Street NE.

“The goal is to install an iconic and highly visible piece of art that will help meet the Visual Arts Commission’s vision to make Cedar Rapids the destination for art in Iowa,” said Sylvia Brueckert, a city planner, noting a preference for interior and exterior visibility and “lighting and kinetic elements.”

The city’s Visual Arts Commission selected Fleming’s proposal by a 6-2 vote in December from a pool of nine finalists and more than 80 applicants.

Kayt Conrad, commission chairwoman, said members were impressed by the quality of the proposal — the most important criterion — as well as Fleming’s portfolio of high-profile work in other cities and his plan to involve community members in the creation of the piece.

“He had done extensive research on the community and submitted a proposal for an installation that we felt would have lasting impact on residents and visitors alike,” Conrad said.

Fleming has completed a number of public art displays throughout the western United States including in San Francisco, Seattle, Vail, Colo., and Tempe, Ariz.

In the spring, Fleming plans to hold a photography workshop in Cedar Rapids with a goal of gathering 300 portraits. He envisions including images of buildings, countryside, the sky and cityscapes, likely submitted by the public. He would curate from the submissions what to use in his piece.

In Eastern Iowa, public investment in art has not always been well-received.

A $500,000, 30-foot-tall installation called the “Lens,” resembling a magnifying glass, was planned for the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall. While the project had some support, others ridiculed it and its price tag, and plans were abandoned.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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