New mobile art tour guides Cedar Rapids residents, visitors through downtown public art collection

Self-guided tour highlights 21 pieces of art in the urban core

Ryan Sarfati of Los Angeles, who goes by “Yanoe,” uses spray paint on the public art mural “Together We Bloom” that he painted with Eric “Zoueh” Skotnes on the side of the First Avenue NE parkade in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Janson Rapisarda, known by the artist name CERA, wraps up a day of painting a mural commemorating RAGBRAI’s 50th anniversary on Sept. 15, 2022, at Hall Bicycle Company in Cedar Rapids. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Artists with the Switzerland-based artists duo NEVERCREW paint a mural on the wall of the Second Avenue SE parking ramp in southeast Cedar Rapids on April 25, 2022. The Duo of Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni, along with Alessandro De Bon, are creating the public art piece that pays homage to the efforts that resulted in ConnectCR. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — As Cedar Rapids continues to grow its collection of public art, particularly in the heart of the city, residents and visitors now can use their phones to take a virtual tour of a selection of pieces located downtown.

City staff have created a mobile art tour. The self-guided one-mile loop is accessible via mobile devices and takes people through 21 works of art within that radius. For those without access to a mobile device, a PDF version also is available.

The creation of the art tour comes after the City Council this spring adopted a public art master plan, which is guiding the efforts to prioritize public art as an element of place-making and a way to capture the characteristics that make Cedar Rapids unique. The plan considers both public and private sector roles in expanding the presence of art in the community.

Community service coordinator Stephanie Schrader told the City Council’s Development Committee last week the route was chosen because of the density of works of art within that mile radius.

People can do the tour at their own pace, Schrader said, whether they’re walking, riding electric scooters or biking in the urban core. As people scroll through the tour, the corresponding point comes forward on the map to visually display a piece’s location.

The art walk starts with the city’s newest and largest mural downtown, “Together We Bloom,” a project done in coordination with the Advocates for Social Justice.

It proceeds to the parkade mural series in the parking ramp on First Avenue SE, passes by new murals including the “Fragments” mural honoring the ConnectCR project and the RAGBRAI mural on the side of Hall Bicycle, includes pieces in and around Greene Square and eventually ends with the “you are beautiful” installation on the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.

For each piece, notes include the artist(s), what materials were used and the location name and address. Staff plan to incorporate an audio feature for the tour, Schrader said. There are also discussions of how to develop the tour in multiple languages.

Both the interactive mobile version and the PDF version can be found on the city’s website under the Public Art Commission page, CityofCR.com/VisualArts. To access the interactive version directly, visit CityofCR.com/ArtTour.

Planners imagine future tour features

Schrader said next steps for the project will be promotion of the art tour with various organizations such as the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office and different art agencies. The city eventually would like to expand this concept to other areas of Cedar Rapids such as Czech Village, New Bohemia and Kingston Village, she added.

Council member Ashley Vanorny, who sits on the Development Committee, said she’d like an effort to incorporate more context behind the meaning of each piece into the tour, potentially through linking news coverage or interviews with artists.

“That kind of context is really interesting, and you wouldn’t get it by just looking at it,” Vanorny said. “So I think if we can incorporate some of the richness of what the meaning and the symbolism is behind any of the pieces of art is really helpful in that.”

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