ImaginArt in the Alleys

City of Marion

Funding Received: 2014
Marion, IA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 19, 2016

As shown in the paver art situated at the center of our project site, the City of Marion was established in 1839 (5 years before Iowa gained statehood). The idea for a traditional compass motif was envisioned in 2014, when community members developed the artistic vision for our ArtPlace grant application. The locals like to joke that Marion is the crossroads of the universe, and that all trails lead to Marion, so including this marker seemed a fitting focal point for our placemaking project. Our Leadership Team agreed to order a customized compass rose by PaverArt of New Jersey and had it installed where our 2 alleys intersect.

A remarkable “New Map of Iowa” from 1850 shows Marion as THE railroad hub of Linn County. Iowa City was then the state capital, and neighboring Cedar Rapids did not yet exist. In those early days, it is said that half of Marion’s men worked for the railroad, but only our older residents remember the stream of freight and passenger trains rumbling through town. Marion’s railroad beds are now being converted to trails, so today’s residents and visitors are once again using historic routes for transportation and recreation. The Lincoln Byway and developing trail systems actually do lead to Marion!

During our visioning process, the public repeatedly asked for artwork that would reflect the City’s history. So our Artist Selection Panel knew they had to find a way to celebrate our railroad past in a way that would resonate with current and future residents. They looked to Waterloo artist Dan Perry to create a fun, colorful, abstract steam engine that would become a magnet for kids of all ages. Take a look at my previous post featuring his sculpture to see which visual elements echo those found in Marion’s beloved caboose, now retired at City Square Park a half block away.