‘Doors Downtown’ Brings New Art to Iowa City’s Alleys

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A new public art project for the people of Iowa City called Doors Downtown is now accepting applications from artists and will select winners this summer to paint porches in downtown alleys.

Concept photos provided from Doors Downtown.


Downtown Iowa has been expanding public art over the years.

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For the past 10 years, downtown Iowa has been working hard to increase opportunities for local artists. From BenchMarks, a project that allows young, inexperienced artists to paint public benches, to large-scale mural projects that require prior knowledge of public art, downtown Iowa provides a range of local and professional artists with access to public spaces Opportunity to showcase his work.

Downtown creative services director Betsy Potter said while the programs did offer a range of projects, there was a lack of opportunities for artists with some experience. To fix this, Iowa City decided to offer a new public art program, Doors Downtown.

“There is one extreme and there is another extreme, so until now there has been no middle ground,” Porter said. “Thomas Agran, our public art coordinator, has been toying with the idea of ​​an in-between public art project, and that’s where Doors Downtown comes from.”

Doors Downtown offers artists the opportunity for a larger project than BenchMarks, but not as time-consuming as a full mural. The program allows artists to paint doorways in the alley behind the Englert Civic Theatre. The installations are scheduled to be completed by the end of this summer and are sponsored by GreenState Credit Union.

Porter said there is already art in Iowa City’s alleyways, drawing a lot of positive attention. Iowa City Robotics Ryan McGuire’s work can be found on the back of the Ped Mall movie scene.

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“There was already a mural on one of the doors in that alley, and it got a lot of interesting attention,” Porter said. “It was a mural, so they wouldn’t be as elaborate as that one, but it would provide a wonderful little walk because they’re all within a few short blocks.”

Porter said the creative services team in downtown Iowa has been working hard to add more artwork to the area’s alleys. While many alleys in other cities are primarily used for trash storage, the pedestrian streets mean Iowa City’s alleys are often traversed, she said.

Because of this, Porter said Iowa City chose to pay special attention to alleys to make them more attractive.

“You know, we’ve been doing things over the years to make them friendlier, more welcoming, safer,” Porter said. “That’s why a lot of you see a lot of murals in alleys.”

Like BenchMarks and the Mural Project, Doors Downtown is a paid opportunity for selected artists. Applications are currently open and artists can submit their ideas. Porter said that because the project is new, the parties involved have been doing all they can to publicize it.

“We just want as many artists as possible to submit their designs,” Porter said. “People can still submit appeals. That’s probably the biggest challenge for new projects — getting the word out and getting people to contribute.”

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