Iowa City seeks input on Creekside art installation

Public input meeting: Creekside Park public art

Creekside Park, shelter area — Thursday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m.

“Three Sisters” by Cara Briggs Farmer in Chadek Green Park, 1920 Friendship St, Iowa City. Wednesday, March 11, 2020. –Zak Neumann/Little Village

Backyard Abundance — an environmental education nonprofit based in Johnson County — and Marion artist Cara Briggs Farmer combined skills to remodel Chadek Green Park in 2018: the nonprofit designed a community garden, and Briggs Farmer created the “Three Sisters” art installation to complement it.

“The three aluminum structures represent the three daughters of Carl Chadek, who owned the land for years and ran a trucking operation on it. The land was then sold to the City to make the park,” reads the City of Iowa City’s explanation of Briggs Farmer’s piece. “Jeannette, Carolyn, and Lorna are the ‘Three Sisters,’ who played and gardened in the same location where the community gardens now stand.”

The Iowa City Public Art Committee has once again commissioned Briggs Farmer to help beautify a local park. She will create an installation for Creekside Park (near the corner of Muscatine Avenue and F Street), this time to accompany an orchard designed by Backyard Abundance.

“She’s very creative, she’s very enthusiastic, she’s great at working with people,” said Marcia Bollinger, public art coordinator. “We have the option of doing a direct commission as part of the public art program guidelines. So in this instance, because we wanted … the Chadek Green and the Creekside project to complement each other, we asked her if she’d be interested in doing the Creekside project as well.”

There will be a public input meeting at Creekside Park Thursday, March 12, at 5:30 p.m. at which members of the community can give their input on Briggs Farmer’s designs.

“It’s gonna be like a public art caucus … but nobody knows who their candidate is until before they walk in,” Briggs Farmer said.

She will bring several scale models for the attendees to observe and discuss. Briggs Farmer is hoping to get a better understanding of what designs people like and where they want the art to be placed in the park.

With the Chadek Green project, she was working alongside Backyard Abundance during the park revision. On Creekside, the work of Backyard Abundance is already completed, so Briggs Farmer is using the Backyard Abundance orchard — complete with fruit trees, berry bushes, a butterfly garden and other perennial edibles — as inspiration for her designs. She spent time studying microscopic images of pollinators to find patterns repeated in nature.

“I was looking at a lot of bugs and a lot of plants to sort of get my jumping off point,” she said, “and so that will kind of be referenced in the design options I’m bringing Thursday.”

While “Three Sisters” pays homage to local history, her new installation will honor nature, she said.

“Rather than me focusing on what’s the human aspect, like what’s the human story that we’re telling, it’s, what is the plant, insect and animal story that we’re telling in the space?” Briggs Farmer said.

Bollinger wants to remind attendees that they are specifically seeking input on the metal work Briggs Farmer is going to create to complement the orchard, as some on social media have suggested other, broader kinds of art that could be incorporated in the park.


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The Creekside Park project is part of the City of Iowa City’s parks and recreation Master Plan.

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