ImaginArt in the Alleys

City of Marion

Funding Received: 2014
Marion, IA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
February 23, 2016

The following update contains excerpts from the Art Director’s blog at

Thank you, ArtPlace America!

October 9, 2014

The Leadership Team from the City of Marion, Iowa, is thrilled that our project has been selected for inclusion in the latest round of ArtPlace America grants! Chamber President and grant facilitator Jill Ackerman stated in a press release, “While we know first-hand that deploying the arts can transform communities, having our work recognized through a generous grant from ArtPlace further supports and validates our efforts.”

“ImaginArt in the Alleys” will enable a diverse team of stakeholders to collaborate on the revitalization of a matrix of alleys in Uptown Marion. These alleyways will be transformed from underutilized spaces to engaging places where public art and cultural activities attract new visitors and economic development. These alleys will serve as pedestrian-friendly back entrances to the small businesses that line 7th Avenue, the city’s historic main street.

As part of the city’s Corridor Redevelopment Plan, 7th Avenue will soon be undergoing substantial streetscape improvements. Marion City Manager, Lon Pluckhahn, offered, “The City of Marion recognized the need to make the Uptown alleys a more inviting place well before starting improvements on 7th Avenue. It’s critical to the future success of our businesses to create a welcoming rear entrance option, and the ArtPlace America grant, together with city funding, will let us demonstrate that infrastructure can be an attraction in its own right.”

Marion’s ArtPlace Leadership Team is comprised of staff from City Departments (City Manager, Engineering, Planning & Development, Parks & Recreation) and other city leaders including our Chamber President, Main Street Director, a key building/business owner, and a newly hired Artistic Director. Logistics have been complicated, but with visionary leaders, a supportive City Council, and clear recommendations from the City’s Public Art Plan, the project is definitely gaining traction!

Marion’s leadership team is receiving invitations to share our story at local, regional and national conferences. As Iowa’s first ArtPlace grantee, we’re embracing the responsibility to suggest strategies that can be replicated in other communities, and share what we learn as our project unfolds. Thank you, ArtPlace America, for placing trust in our community!

Visioning Underway!

October 29, 2014

What creative ideas are emerging for Uptown Marion’s alleys! Two recent visioning sessions have generated a fantastic array of concepts that could take shape over the coming months!

On October 24th a team of 8 exemplary Design students from Iowa State University teamed up with 8 highly creative local high school students to work with Uptown Marion’s business owners, with the goal of brainstorming ideas that would draw customers to those shops from the alleys. The students did a very impressive job of listening, working together, sketching, writing, and speaking to the City staff about their concepts!

On October 28th over 60 community members participated in a visioning session with Dan Burden, of Port Townsend, Washington. As a national expert on walkable communities, he was able to lead and inspire residents to imagine how Marion could become a healthier, more livable community by bringing the arts and culture to the underutilized public spaces in and around the alleys of Uptown Marion. This visioning event was hosted in part by Blue Zones.  All of the ideas generated through these 2 input sessions will be considered by Marion’s Public Art Committee.

ArtPlace Meets Main Street in Atlanta!

April 9, 2015

On April 1 during the National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta, Marion was represented during a panel presentation on behalf of ArtPlace America.  The session was titled “Activating Underutilized Spaces: Cross-Sector Partnerships in Creative Placemaking.”  The ArtPlace grantees included Marion, Iowa; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Lawrence, Kansas.  Since 2001, ArtPlace America has invested in cross-sector partnerships that unite local government, Main Street and civic organizations, artists and arts institutions working to create immersive, successful corridors in cities and towns of all sizes.  It was an honor to be selected as a presenter at this conference, and exciting to spread the word about ArtPlace and our own ImaginArt in the Alleys project!

Call to Artists

April 11, 2015

A national call to artists was posted on April 10 for Marion’s ImaginArt in the Alleys project. Individuals and teams can submit their qualifications at no cost through CaFE (Call For Entry) at:  Relevant information can also be accessed through the City’s homepage at:  Submissions are due on May 8.

13 Finalists Selected!

July 30, 2015

Marion’s Artist Selection Panel has reviewed the submissions of 80 regional and national artists who sent in their qualifications through an online portal called CaFE (Call For Entry). We are absolutely thrilled with the quality of applications, and regret that we couldn’t include more artists! Members of the panel and Leadership Team look forward to talking with each of the selected individuals in the days ahead to discuss how their work is expected to contribute to the overall vision for the alley project.

Calling All Contractors

Nov. 24, 2015

Revised engineering and construction documents are now available at City Hall, and local contractors have been stopping by the Engineering Department to pick up booklets and related plans prepared by Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering Firm. The bid date is Dec. 22, 2015 at 10 AM.

Since our original letting last spring when the lone bid was nearly twice the engineers’ estimate ($707,000 rather than $360,000), our Leadership Team has met with interested contractors to get feedback on how to reduce the cost of the project. Much brainstorming has been done to streamline the plans, and now that we can actually visualize the final 11 proposed art projects, the space has been tailored to support all of the amazing artwork that will be installed next fall.

Fundraising continues, and we have been thrilled to receive generous contributions from Linn County, Hall-Perrine, Rockwell Collins and many other local foundations, corporations, businesses and families. Thanks to ArtPlace and these local donations, the City of Marion has received over half a million dollars from the private sector.