‘The Parking Spaces’ provides interactive audio art experience in downtown Iowa City

Iowa artists Steven Willis, Ramin Roshandel, and Stephanie Miracle created a unique listening experience in spots around downtown Iowa City.


Lillie Hawker

Parking spaces on the fourth floor of the Chauncey Swan Parking Garage are seen in Iowa City on Monday, August 29, 2022.

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

During the height of the pandemic, an Iowa City choreographer, composer, and musician collaborated to create “The Parking Spaces,” an asynchronous art experience scattered throughout downtown. The three returned to update the project this year.

The Parking Spaces is an interactive audio experience found within eleven public spaces throughout the city. The work includes diverse audio narratives ranging in style and location, from the Black Hawk Mini Park to the Chauncey Street Parking Ramp.

Map by Eleanor Hildebrandt/The Daily Iowan

The first rendition of The Parking Spaces

First created by writer/poet Steven Willis, composer Ramin Roshandel, and choreographer Stephanie Miracle in 2020, the previously titled “The Parking Spaces Project” was originally an idea borne from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Almost all theaters were completely shuttered,” Miracle said. “There was very little — if any — there was basically no live performance.”

Miracle, a University of Iowa assistant professor of dance, joined forces with Willis, a current poetry student at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and Roshandel, a Ph.D. candidate in music composition at the UI.

The trio wanted to create art that brings people together in a physical space during the pandemic. They decided on the Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp located on East Washington Street in Iowa City.

Ten audio experiences were created for the fourth floor of the ramp. Each audio segment in this version corresponds to a parking space number and is available the project’s website.

Willis and Miracle took turns narrating different parking numbers. Each space utilized sound or music in the recordings composed and arranged by Roshandel, the sound engineer for the project.

The Parking Spaces

 Now, there is an updated continuation of the experience that includes ten local artists.

Miracle said she wanted to bring in new artists to introduce more expressions, different generations, and different representations of identity and forms of art. The project also now includes spoken word poetry, a podcast element, a solely musical narrative, and an interactive experience.

“That was important for us to show these different shades of our community,” Miracle said.

One of the local artists, Mary Mayo, said her interest was sparked by the initial project. Willis reached out asking her to do voice work for the new edition.

“I really enjoyed the first iteration of this ... I immediately said yes, because I really enjoyed the first, being a participant, you know, being in the audience of the first one,” Mayo said.

Jason Snell, another local artist contributor, previously worked on an interactive lighting piece in the Old Capitol Mall Parking Ramp in 2019. Miracle commissioned him to do a recording revisiting that art piece for the updated work.

“For me, it was a nice revisit to an earlier space, and the piece itself was about memory and how memory changes over time. So it was interesting to revisit a piece about memory and see what I could remember about it and retelling the experience of creating it and the musical output — the public art aspect of it,” Snell said.

Many of the project’s artists are involved with the UI, Miracle said.

“The university is already a gathering place of people who are seeking knowledge, people who are wanting to meet one another, and that feels also like a good analogy of how we’re creating connections and networks and relating to spaces,” Miracle said.