New public art installation introduced in Creekside Park

Titled ‘Emergence,’ the stainless steel artwork consists of prairie grass, flowers, and blocks of limestone for visitors to sit. At their feet, a fledgling orchard grows, including apple, peach, and pear trees.


Jeff Sigmund

Emergenc by Cara Briggs Farmer located in the Community Orchard section of Creekside park, 1858 7th ave court.As seen on Wednesday July 1,2020 (Jeff Sigmund/Photojournalist)

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Editor

Two stainless-steel mandala flowers perch over a recently planted orchard in Iowa City’s Creekside Park. Sprouting from the ground are two tall stands of silver grasses that mimic prairie grass. This latest sculptural art piece, titled, ‘Emergence,’ was installed on June 16.

The name of the four-piece project — created by local artist and welder Cara Briggs Farmer — was inspired by the feelings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the project was designed before the COVID-19 era, according to Farmer.

“I just kept thinking about, ‘oh my god, how nice is it going to be when we can all go out again and be together in public spaces,” Briggs Farmer said. “…The title was definitely COVID inspired, just from, you know, sort of our communal loneliness and longing to be together.”

For the project’s design, Farmer researched various flowers and grasses. She would zoom in on images of flowers to observe their geometric patterns or look closely at a blade of grass and fixate on its striations.

“There are really cool patterns in there,” she said. “So I like to start with a wide focus and then take a really close myopic focus on some very particular things and then pull that focus back out.”

Next to the sculptures are fledgling apple, peach, and pear trees, and various berry bushes, which have recently been planted by Backyard Abundance, a local environmental education non-profit that helps people create environmentally beneficial landscapes, according to Executive Director Fred Meyer.

Within three years, the orchard will bear fruit, though it typically takes five years before the trees begin producing a plethora of food, Meyer said. The group also planted white clover to attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

“Its goal is to symbolize what’s going on in the garden, there, so not only is it growing food, but it’s also growing wildlife habitat,” he said.

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Marcia Bollinger, the public art coordinator of Iowa City, added that the art highlights the entrance to the park, and that the art is attached to limestone rock, which provides a place for visitors to sit.

As a collaborative effort, the project received help from Backyard Abundance, the Iowa City Public Art Advisory Committee, the Parks and Recreation department, and residents who live near the park. Once the design process was completed, Farmer started welding, which she said took about four to six weeks to complete.

Bollinger said the Public Art Program’s goal is to have art installed in places in Iowa City that one wouldn’t expect.

“It doesn’t all have to be downtown, it could be, you know, nooks and crannies, it could be long trails, in prairies, in gardens, that kind of stuff,” she said.

For Briggs Farmer, the enjoyment she receives while creating public art comes from getting to know different communities.

“You can’t go through a public art process and not get to know a whole bunch of new people, and a new neighborhood or new communities,” she said. “I really like getting into like, ‘what’s the heart of your neighborhood? What’s the heart of your community? What’s your story? What’s important to you?’ And sort of go from there. Every neighborhood has a story. Every neighborhood has a history and a personality, and that’s my favorite thing about public art.”

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