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Uptown Marion’s ImaginArt in the Alleys

By Jodi Harris, City Revealed | October 1, 2014 |

It is no secret that Uptown Marion is fast becoming the niche community for anyone seeking those one-of-a-kind shopping and dining experiences, but there is more excitement to come with the announcement of a $350,000 grant for art in the alleys of this unique neighborhood. Jill Ackerman, President of the Marion Chamber of Commerce recently announced that Marion’s ImaginArt in the Alleys has received a 2014 ArtPlace America grant to support the arts and creative place-making throughout the United States. This generous grant is one of 55 awarded by ArtPlace America this year and will bring fresh, exciting art to the alley ways of Marion in 2015. Visit their website to learn more about their vision and see a complete list of communities throughout the United States that have been awarded similar grants through the program.

The City of Marion will also contribute to the project and will receive and manage the grant funding. The intention is to work together to create an artistic transformation of uptown alleys to be more exciting and inviting as future work on 7th Avenue is planned. The alleys will become beautiful walkways for patrons and fashionable back doorways to area businesses. The project will begin with community engagement in the gathering of ideas. An exciting facet of the project is the involvement of local artists in the design and installation of unique works of art created specifically for the alley ways.

Karen Hoyt who wrote the grant and is an art educator and community advocate says; “ArtPlace America is all about “place-making” through art and culture. The national foundations and banks investing in cities like Marion recognize that the arts strengthen our local economies, bringing people together in the process. Marion is poised to lead by example, demonstrating how the back alleys in our towns and cities can actually be transformed into community assets through the creativity of our people.”

Implementation of a community input process for suggestions and ideas will be in place soon says Jill Ackerman, President of the Marion Chamber of Commerce. She also advised they plan to have an art director in place by early October. Once these initial tasks are completed, meetings will begin to move forward on the creative plans for the project. Currently, the city engineering department is working on the infrastructure with plans to repave the actual alleys, plan for proper drainage and get them ready for the start of the project. One of the stipulations of the grant is that the money must used by December of 2015, which means the work will begin and progress quickly to ensure the alleys are ready to go as soon as the construction season can begin in the spring of next year.

“We are elated that Marion is the first Iowa community to receive an ArtPlace America grant and we are grateful to them for the generous grant. We are very anxious to get our project “ImagineArt in the Alleys” underway. This innovative project will reconstruct the alley that runs behind the buildings on 7th Avenue from 10th to 11th Street and will add in both temporary and permanent art pieces for the entire community to enjoy. This project will bring vibrancy to Uptown Marion and deploy the arts in a unique and unexpected way.” Jill Ackerman Noelle Wittkop, owner of PurseNality of Marion, a boutique specializing in purses and accessories, is excited about the project. Her store has an alley running along the north side of the building and she hopes the project will bring people to the neighborhood to enjoy the artwork and experience Uptown Marion. She says, “This is a great project to showcase something beautiful and functional in Uptown Marion. It’s a great opportunity to give patrons a whole new view of Uptown.”

Those interested in participating in this exciting endeavor may contact the Marion Chamber at 319.377.6316 or visit their website at

There is always something going on in Uptown Marion! Be sure to visit the Harvest Moon Chocolate Walk to be held on Friday, October 3rd between 8 and 10:30 pm when patrons will be able to visit all the shops in Uptown Marion, and receive a sweet treat at every stop. Also watch for more information on the 22nd Annual Christmas in the Park and Peppermint Walk celebration coming in December.

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