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Public Art in Uptown Artway

Updated on 05/18/2017 11:54 AM

The alley between 10th and 11th Streets and 7th and 8th Avenues in Uptown Marion has been given new life. Here's a peek at the impressive public art that awaits you...

About the Project

ArtPlace America selected the city of Marion as the first in Iowa to receive support for a placemaking project. ArtPlace, a consortium of national foundations and financial institutions, provided the City with $350,000 to help bring vitality to underutilized spaces in the heart of the historic Uptown Marion Main Street District. Marion’s Artist Selection Panel reviewed 80 regional and national artist proposals for public art projects. They narrowed the submissions down to 13 finalists and awarded contracts to nine artists, including five from Iowa. Read about these artists and their public art installations below.

 About the Artists

Artist Bio

John Schwartzkopf


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While majoring in Philosophy and Anthropology in college, John Schwarzkopf was doing woodworking. His artwork was first shown at local galleries and the Marion Arts Festival, which jump started his career. He now shows at galleries around the Midwest and his work is held in many private and public spaces, notably Cedar Rapids institutions. Alley Gateway consists of a roofed structure that forms an entrance between adjacent buildings. The differing heights of architectural features gave rise to the asymmetrical design. Homage is paid to the historical context by using related materials while also reflecting a contemporary look. The two benches placed within the alley reflect the design of the gateway feature and offer pedestrians a place to linger.

Jake Balcom


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Jake Balcom is a master metalworker who received degrees in Science and Welding Tech before opening a shop specializing in custom architectural metalwork. His award-winning designs are held in a dozen public outdoor spaces and over 70 private collections. Jake now resides in Kansas City, MO where his primary focus is outdoor public art installations and large-scale chandeliers.

 The title, Alley Blome, is derived from the Norwegian definition of “a flower,” along with the English definition as “a lump of metal,“ making it the perfect title for this sculpture. The aim of this abstract steel form is to impart the calming effect of a majestic tree along with the excitement of an exploding firework. The towering tree-like sculpture helps to create a hidden oasis where one can sit to reflect, take a break, and enjoy the moment. The theme of Alley Blome references the Marion community’s appreciation of trees, and its designation as “TreeCityUSA.”

Cecilia Lueza


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Argentine-born, American-based artist Cecilia Lueza studied visual arts at the University of LaPlata in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Today, she is well known for creating vibrant public art pieces in a range of media including painting and sculpting with wood, metal, and ceramics. The artist’s recent body of work explores different states of mind through transformation, fantasy and nature.

Midnight Wonder, the mural painted for the stage wall, is inspired by the concepts of innocence, history, community and freedom. The design depicts a girl holding a small box from which a flock of beautiful native Iowa birds find their way to freedom. The mural’s background is black in order to create a stark contrast against the colorful birds in flight. The purpose of this artwork is to create a focal point and a gathering place where creative expression and friendships are nurtured.

Dale Merrill


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Artist Dale J. Merrill began sculpting metal in 1998 and opened Liberty Iron Works in Mount Vernon, Iowa. His current works include public and private sculpture, residential and commercial architectural installations, and custom furniture. While creating both abstract and kinetic art, his installations range from clean and simple forms to complex mechanical details. Recently, much of his work has been using materials such as weathering steel, reclaimed wood, and stone in its natural state, preserving the form and finish.

 This installation, titled Evoke, includes a group of seven individual large-scale leaf forms. Each is created with contrasting materials that include a weathering CorTen steel for the base and stem which transitions into the upper part of the stem created from stainless steel. The rolled leaf element of each sculpture features an internal light source glowing through perforated steel. The organic forms suggest a growing community that stands together and embraces its natural heritage.

Dan Perry


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 Over the past 10 years, Dan Perry has exhibited his artwork in over 25 national juried group shows and seven solo exhibitions, and has completed seven public art commissions. He is currently the Art Studio Technician and an instructor at the University of Northern Iowa, and serves with several civic art organizations including the Cedar Falls Public Art Committee (Vice Chair). Confluence is defined as assemblage, which refers to disparate components coming together to create a whole. Elements of this abstract sculpture reference mechanical components of steam engines such as gears and wheels, offering a nod to Marion’s past as a classic railroad town. The interlocking forms also suggest the similarities between a machine and a thriving community – each has several moving parts that need to work together to achieve a goal. This colorful sculpture is meant to honor the past, energize the present, and hint at the future.

Luke Crawley and Quincy Owens


 Luke Crawley and Quincy Owens photo 

Quincy Owens loves to open his studio door every day to make something out of nothing. He graduated from the University of Indianapolis, lives in Greenwood, and has a studio at the Harrison Center for the Arts where he works as a full-time artist.

Luke Crawley is a science and math teacher at University High School in Carmel, Indiana. He tries to capture the joy found in authentic scientific exploration and artistic creation in his endeavors. Quincy and Luke’s collaborative work embodies the contradiction that lives within every human being.

Prime Commonality - Marion, Iowa is a sculptural installation that serves as a waypoint for the community, embodying the spirit of the place. Three colorful pillars incorporate dynamic lighting elements designed to engage the viewer. The chromosomal banding patterns that enliven the columns represent the commonality of the chromosomes shared throughout the natural world. The installation also incorporates an aural experience created from sounds recorded in the Marion community that can be accessed here and onsite via QR code.

Cara Briggs Farmer


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After earning a Master’s Degree at the University of Northern Iowa, Cara Briggs Farmer enjoyed a first career as the Technical Director of a professional theater in the Twin Cities. In 2008 she returned to her home state of Iowa and launched her career as a solo artist. Since then, she has succeeded as both an artist and a small business owner in the city of Marion. Prairie Schooled consists of a stainless steel archway with benches, screens and planter units to provide a welcoming gateway feature on 7th Ave. The combined influences of Art Deco and Prairie School architecture complement the historic neighboring buildings. Integrated benches with planter boxes offer places for shoppers to rest and reflect, and the overhead archway featuring polycarbonate stained glass catches the eye of passersby. Integrated LED lighting provides security at night while illuminating the colorful glass overhead.

Chris Miller


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Vermont sculptor Chris Miller works in granite, wood and marble, creating figurative and representational sculptures for indoor and outdoor installations. He began carving in 1976 and now focuses on national commissions. Life is a Ride is a larger-than life carved granite hand rising out of the pavement to hold a coiled bicycle rack. The 1000-pound hand features a fingerless biking glove with MARION etched into the strap. This whimsical bike rack encourages exercise, and supports the city’s brand as a fun, health-minded “Blue Zones” community.

Matthew Kargol


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Born in 1975 in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Matthew Kargol earned a BA and MA in visual art and sculpture from the University of Northern Iowa, and an MFA from Clemson University. Since 1998 he has completed several commissions for large-scale public sculptures in Iowa, South Carolina, South Dakota and Colorado. He is an art educator and art advocate who finds ways for communities to incorporate the arts into everyday life. The furniture comprising this living room setting titled Drawing Room is meant to bring the whimsy of a paper cartoon to the real world. This allows visitors to interact within the space and become characters in a story that they are continually creating. Fabricated steel and automotive paint are combined to create functional seating, and a colorful painted rug anchors the nostalgic living room set to the site.