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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Public Art Commissioned from Grin City

Grin City, partnering with the Grinnell Area Arts Council, will be celebrating its tenth anniversary by commissioning four pieces of art to be placed around downtown Grinnell this spring.

The projects are planned for next three years at Relish, Drake Community Library, Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. and the Grinnell Area Arts Council building. Three of the artists are native Iowans, while one is a Grin City alum from Berkeley, Calif. who fell in love with the Midwest during her residency at the collective.
Two of the projects will take on Iowan elements. Stephanie Sailer of Swisher, Iowa will be designing a large sculpture of a native Iowa plant. This will be placed in the prairie grass behind Drake Community Library.

Wilma Wyss of Berkeley, Calif. will be creating three-dimensional mosaic sculptures of Iowa’s endangered prairie plants. These will be featured outside the entrance of the Grinnell Area Art Center.

Relish will host a garden bench, designed by Bounnak Thamavong of Swisher, Iowa, in front of its building.

Outside Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. a double-sided ink print on canvas will hang in the window,and will feature shoeprints from Grinnell community members. Molly Rideout ’10, co-director of Grin City, is particularly excited for this project because of its continuous community involvement.

“In my experience, the most successful project is the project that involves the community from the start,” she said.

Nine possible locations were initially identified after a public call to different businesses and property owners. The collective then advertised to artists, who made proposals to specific sites. The four sites slated to have artwork installed were those that found the best match.
Grin City wanted the artists’ focus to be on the community itself.

“We wanted people to come into the community with their entire focus being on … making something for this community,” Rideout said.
The artists will be paid a flat fee ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 dollars, and were offered a residency space at Grin City. The artwork will be property of the Arts Council.

The artwork will be installed from June 5-11, the week between Grinnell College’s Alumi Reunion and Summerfest, so people present in Grinnell will be able to get a sneak peek at the art and see into the artists’ studios.

The three-year installation period is seen as a trial run.

“If the community decides that they don’t like how this was done or decide they don’t want it, at the end of three years they can decide to remove it,” Rideout said.

The method of addressing the community’s opinion in three years is still undecided. For this project, community involvement was seen as one of its key goals.

“One thing we’ve often found just in our own personal experience is that public art really needs to have public buy-in … if you just erect something in the community, it might be great, but if the community wasn’t gung-ho about it in the beginning, then there’s going to be a lot of negative feeling,” Rideout said.

There are various community events leading up to the unveiling in June, including a dance party at Lonnski’s Pub & Deli on Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.

The project strives to introduce the community to art in new ways.

“[The installations are] physically outside so that anyone can stumble upon them,” Rideout said. “That ‘stumble upon’ aspect is important because it can expose people to art that wouldn’t have necessarily been exposed to it.”

Accessibility is also key to the project.

“Public art is, by nature, art for everyone,” Rideout said. “And in order for it to be successful it should be able to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.”

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